Record fine for dairy company after odour causes vomiting

A Waikato dairy processing company has been handed down the largest fine in the region for its recidivist dirty dairying behaviour.

The offending by Open Country Dairy Ltd, based in Waharoa near Matamata, was so bad residents suffered dehabilitating effects - from closing the doors and windows to headaches and vomiting.

The company was convicted and fined $221,250 for discharging objectionable odour that caused significant impacts on the local community, and also unlawfully discharging wastewater, impacting on a local river.

Waikato Regional Council's investigations and incident response manager, Patrick Lynch, said it was the largest fine imposed for any prosecution taken under the Resource Management Act in the Waikato region.

The prosecution followed "numerous complaints" from local businesses and residents of Waharoa through two periods in 2018.

Residents reported that there had been ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour.

In March 2018 the council discovered the odour issues were connected to the failure of the company's wastewater pond liner. As a result, the Waitoa River was also contaminated.

"This is the fifth prosecution of this company, or its predecessor, relating to unlawful discharges into the environment," Lynch said.

"We have the greatest sympathy for the Waharoa community who have to try living with the terrible impacts this stench has caused.

"This large fine sends a very clear message to this company that their operation has to be environmentally sustainable."

The convictions and fine were imposed last week in the Morrinsville District Court by Judge Melanie Harland, who stated that the odour impacts on residents were "profound and, of their kind, serious".

Judge Harland also issued an enforcement order, which the company agreed to, prohibiting further objectionable odour from the site.

The order also requires the company to have a Community Communication Plan to keep the community and council informed of any issues at the plant that may result in objectionable odour being discharged.

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