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Companies fined for muddying the waters

Companies fined for muddying the waters

Two Canterbury businesses have been successfully prosecuted by Environment Canterbury for their part in allowing sediment laden run-off from a building development to enter Duvauchelle Bay.

Both Sicon Ferguson Limited and Tresta Holdings Limited pleaded guilty at the Christchurch District Court in late June to breaching the Resource Management Act and were fined a total of $52,500. A third company, Elliot Sinclair and Partners Limited was found not guilty in relation to the same case.

“The plume of dirty water that was washed into Duvauchelle Bay last May was a direct result of these companies disregarding good advice and not taking the appropriate steps to lessen the risk posed by forecasted poor weather,” says Kim Drummond, Director for Resource Management at Environment Canterbury.

“They had been warned of the potential for the discharge and had had a similar one previously, but still they did not take adequate measures to prevent it happening again. Erosion and sediment control is a critical factor in any works near water and they neglected to follow the plans laid out which would have stopped this from happening.”

Judge J J M Hassan noted during sentencing that the primary cause of the offence was the errors of judgement made. “Neither Sicon or Tresta sought to deliberately pollute the environment. However, in various respects each of you demonstrated deliberateness in departing from your legal obligations.

“With large earthworks projects in challenging and sensitive environments such as this, there is clearly a need for diligence in project management and well systemised adherence to environmental controls.” The judge went on to add that the temptation to put environmental protection second must be strongly resisted.

Kim Drummond hopes the outcome of this case proves a timely reminder to others involved in these kinds of building developments that they have obligations to the community and the environment that they need to meet.

“Having inadequate erosion and sediment control practices that result in the kind of incident we saw in Duvauchelle Bay is just not acceptable. We don’t like to see our waterways treated this way and if we find it happening we’ll take those responsible to task over it.

“We have developed a number of programmes to help the industry, including the Builders Pocket Guide which responds to the expected increase in earthworks and supports the objectives of Canterbury Water Management Strategy and Earthquake Recovery. We also have staff whose role it is to develop strong working relationships with contractors, providing advice, support and encouragement for them to actively manage the environmental risks.”

During sentencing Judge Hassan recognised the associated cultural impact this incident had on local iwi Te Rununga o Ōnuku and took this into consideration along with the ecological effects. Scion was deemed comparatively more culpable and fined $30,000, while Tresta was fined $22,000.


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