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A Westport trucking company has made good with the West Coast Regional Council in an out of court settlement following a fuel spill by donating over $40,000 of work on a community walkway at Cape Foulwind.
Johnson Brothers Transport, based on the eastern side of Westport, admitted early last year being at fault after an ammonia discharge contaminated water to a creek.
A report to the regional council meeting tomorrow details how the company entered into the council's 'alternative justice pathway' which led to the withdrawal of two court charges.
Johnsons fixed a well known walkway at Cape Foulwind which gives access to the beach below coastal cliffs overlooking The Steeples and adjacent to the Star Tavern, at Omau.
"A court mediator was appointed and it was agreed between the parties that Johnson Brothers would construct and improve a walkway from Omau Domain to the beach below," the report says.
"The existing track had eroded away making it difficult for those using it to access the beach area."
The work including constructing a timber staircase, and path improvements have recently been completed.
The council report noted those were carried out to a high standard and had significantly improved access to the beach.
"Overall it is estimated the total cost of these works was around $40,000."
Council chief executive Mike Meehan said today the regional council had been using a restorative justice approach for some years as a "middle ground" way of dealing with infringements which were more serious than the relatively low fines structure, but not necessarily warranting the scale of full court action.
"There's quite a big gap between the tools we can use," Mr Meehan said.
The council had initially considered using district court processes around alternative justice but ultimately found it had little flexibility.
As a result, the council adapted a model used by Environment Canterbury.
Mr Meehan said the party being prosecuted had to show remorse and be prepared to undertake an alternative payback, which on completion saw charges withdrawn, similar to the police diversion scheme.
"It's a positive thing that comes out of a negative."
A fuel oil spill in the Blaketown lagoon several years ago was mitigated in a similar fashion and the option had been fairly successful in a number of other instances, he said.
- Brendon McMahon, Greymouth Star