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RMA prosecution highlights importance of wetlands

RMA prosecution highlights importance of wetlands

Friday 6 September, 2002

District Court Judge C.J. Thompson has convicted and fined a landowner $32,500 and an earthworks contractor $40,000 for illegal drainage works on a wetland area at Kaipara Flats near Warkworth.

Simon H. Withers and Warwick Rhodes Contractors Limited were prosecuted by the Auckland Regional Council (ARC) for 2 related incidents in August and December 2000.

Mr. Withers and Warwick Rhodes Contractors Ltd pleaded guilty to charges for diversion of water, disturbance of a river bed and discharge of sediment.

ARC Chairperson Gwen Bull said “We view prosecution as an absolute last-resort but the seriousness of this case is adequately reflected in the Court’s ruling.”

”The importance of wetland areas cannot be understated in their role as a natural water filter improving our water quality, as a flood buffer and as a significant habitat of wildlife species,” said Cr. Bull.

Following the construction of drains through the wetland area in August 2000, a complaint was received by the ARC.

Investigations raised ARC concerns about damage to the wetland.

This prompted discussions with Mr. Withers and an agreement to implement a detailed wetland rehabilitation plan.

A consent for remedial work was granted with conditions. The work was to be completed by the end of December 2000 but vital parts of the consent were not met.

In his ruling, Judge Thompson found it unacceptable that neither defendant thought a resource consent would be required before they commenced on the drainage work.

Judge Thompson described the work carried out as “crudely done with little or no sympathy for the wetland.”

He went on to say that there was “no plausible excuse for not following the resource consent to the letter.”

ARC’s Cr. Bull emphasises the importance of using the information resources of local councils, the ARC and other agencies for anyone planning development around water courses.

“Better facilitation of RMA requirements is a part of our role in the region and we always welcome anyone to contact us directly or to use the extensive consents information provided on our website – basically if you’re unsure, please ask.”

Approximately 85% of all New Zealand wetland areas have been lost and are one of the country’s most threatened ecosystems. The Rodney Ecological District (about 2/3 the size of Rodney District) currently has around 1/50th of it’s original existing wetlands.

For more information contact:

Graeme Ridley, Team Leader Sediment Management 3662000 x7014 or

Shona Myers, Natural Heritage Scientist, 3662000 x8233

www.arc.govt.nz


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