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Farmer fined $12,000 for illegally takign water

November 7, 2006

Mid Canterbury farmer fined $12,000 for illegally taking water

A Mid Canterbury farmer, Keith Bruce Townshend, was fined $12,000 after pleading guilty to taking water from a bore on his property in Valetta groundwater zone without a resource consent. The fine was imposed on November 1 in the Christchurch District Court by Environment Court Judge Jeff Smith.

An Environment Canterbury environmental protection officer noticed the illegal water take when monitoring Mr Townshend’s dairy effluent discharge consent in March this year. The property is located on Poplar Rd, Eiffelton.

A sharemilker operating on Mr Townshend’s property also pleaded guilty to the same charge but was discharged without conviction and ordered to pay $2,500 to Environment Canterbury. The Judge specified that the money is to be used by Environment Canterbury to educate young farmers on the seriousness of this type of offending and the need to adhere strictly to any resource consent conditions. The sharemilker was discharged without conviction because of his full co-operation and honesty, his lesser culpability, remorse, good character and his early guilty plea. The Judge also found that his unique personal circumstances in this case would have made the consequences of a conviction too severe.

Although Mr Townshend had applied to take water via a bore on his property, the consent had not been granted. His application is being processed along with a number of other groundwater applications within the same Valetta groundwater zone. The zone is classified as “red” or assessed as 100 per cent or more allocated by ECan water scientists.

The Judge said that the fine for this sort of offence should start at around $20,000. Given mitigating circumstances, for example the farmer’s early guilty plea, remorse, acknowledgement of responsibility and co-operation with ECan staff, the fine was set at $12,000. Environment Canterbury receives 90 per cent of the fine with the remainder to the Crown. Court costs were included in this amount.

ECan regulatory hearing committee chair Cr Angus McKay said the $12,000 fine, the same as received by a central Canterbury irrigator mid year for a similar offence, signals that neither the Court nor Environment Canterbury will tolerate illegal takes of Canterbury groundwater. This increasingly valued resource had to be safeguarded via the Resource Management Act and the consenting process to protect the environment and existing water users, he said.


For further information on Canterbury groundwater: http://www.ecan.govt.nz/Our+Environment/Water/Groundwater/


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