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Fines for wetlands damage South Canterbury

September 17, 2008


Fines for wetlands damage South Canterbury

Environment Canterbury has been successful recently in three prosecutions involving damage to Canterbury wetlands.

• A North Otago agricultural contracting business together with its owner was fined $15,000 for draining a wetland area during a dairy farm conversion at Omarama.

• In a second case, a South Canterbury farmer was fined $9000 for constructing an earth and tyre barrier which drained the bed of Lake Wainono, near Timaru.

• In a third case, a South Canterbury farmer drained a wetland within the tributary of the Waitaki River in order to install a pivot irrigation system.

Judge Jeff Smith fined North Otago Ditching and Baling and company director Mervyn McCabe $15,000 with a further $4244 in investigation costs, after the company admitted a charge of permitting the diversion of surface and/or groundwater as a result of the construction of a drain near Ben Omar swamp on Buscot Station last year.

The drain not only drained land on Buscot Station but also at least partly lowered the water level in the Ben Omar swamp, a wetland area gazetted and under the control of the Department of Conservation.

The judge said McCabe had entered into a joint venture arrangement with the owner of Buscot Station with a view to converting pasture land for dairy farming. McCabe was undertaking the contracting work to make more land available for dairy farming.

A compliance certificate for an unrelated project was obtained from the Waitaki District Council. It was clear that it did not include any regional council consent for drainage or diversion works that were carried out on Buscot Station, said the judge.

When the matter was brought to McCabe’s attention, the work on the drain was stopped and he began co-operating with Environment Canterbury to remedy the damage to the environment. The cost of remedial work would be borne by McCabe’s company.

In the second case, Judge Smith imposed a $9000 fine on Thomas Norman Lister, saying he should have known that a resource consent was required and should have checked with Environment Canterbury before the work was undertaken.

One of the key concerns of the court in sentencing was deterrence, the judge told Lister.
“In this regard the particular concern relates to the construction of a works in a bed of a lake or river, when no consent has been obtained.”

He believed the farmer knew consent was necessary because Lister had previously applied for, but later withdrawn, an application to build a stopbank on his property to protect it from flooding from the lake.

The judge said the 1.5m high construction had been discovered last year close to the land, and running 500m along the lake bed. Lister had removed it promptly and the judge accepted there was no long term effect on the wetland environment.

The offence was the first of its type for Lister who had been co-operative throughout, had pleaded guilty and was a person held in good standing in the local community.

In the third case, Geoff Wallace Holdings Limited was fined $12,000 and Geoff Wallace was also fined $3000. He was also required to undertake extensive remediation works as part of the sentence.

In all cases the judge directed that 90 per cent of the fine be paid to the Canterbury Regional Council, Environment Canterbury, and that the defendants should also pay the council’s costs of investigation and court costs.


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