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Northpower hit hard for RMA breaches

6 June 2004

Northpower hit hard for RMA breaches

Northpower has pleaded guilty to two charges laid by Auckland City under the Resource Management Act for clearing vegetation from land on Waiheke Island without a resource consent.

The charges relate to an area of regenerating bush at Orapiu, Waiheke Island, that was cleared far in excess of what was required for Northpower to carry out the work intended.

Northpower have been ordered by the court to put in place a remedial plan that involves re-establishing native vegetation and taking careful weed control measures over a period of four to five years at a cost of $28,112. Additionally, it must pay costs to council of $8,011.98 plus a fine totalling $14,000 ($10,000 for one property and $4,000 for the other) making the total equivalent to a fine of $50,000.

Mr Greg Reid, team leader for Hauraki Gulf Islands, Auckland City Environments, believes that the case should be considered a clear example of the severe consequences that will be imposed by courts for non-compliance.

Rules within the District Plan prohibit clearance of indigenous vegetation exceeding certain amounts without first obtaining resource consent to do so. In addition, it prohibits the destruction, removal or modification of indigenous vegetation over three metres in height without prior consent.

"Resource consents are carefully issued for very good reasons. They are a way for council to manage the effects of clearing or development on the environment. Significant clearing such as occurred here can have a number of impacts on the surrounding area such as allowing weed infestation that causes an alteration of the local microclimate. This can lead to soil erosion problems caused by run-off, which may eventually lead to destabilisation", Mr Reid says.

This judgement is a clear message that commercial organisations should take heed of the penalties now being imposed by the Environment Court when the environment is damaged because of poor company environmental compliance systems or practices. Companies are being forced to take responsibility for the actions of their employees and will not be able to plead ignorance when District Plan rules are breached. If convicted of such offences, companies and their employees face penalties of up to $200,000 in fines and two years' imprisonment.


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