Farmers’ Fines Highlight Duty of Care
Statement by Fred McLay, Director-Resource Management, Taranaki Regional Council
The importance of having an appropriate farm dairy effluent disposal systems which is regularly checked and maintained was highlighted in the Environment Court in New Plymouth today (10 July 2018).
John and Alison Vernon, dairy farmers of Denbigh Road, Midhurst, were fined $45,000 after earlier pleading guilty to one charge against each under the Resource Management Act, brought by the Taranaki Regional Council.
Untreated dairy effluent was found to be discharging onto land and was flowing from an area of ponding into an unnamed tributary of Rum Keg Creek. The discharge arose from a hose that had been disconnected from a travelling irrigator after there had been blockages in the effluent pump.
In a separate case, Block 8 Farm Ltd, on Block 8 Road Waverley, which has Kevin and Diane Goble as directors, was fined $54,000 after earlier pleading guilty to two charges under the Resource Management Act, brought by the Taranaki Regional Council.
The oxidation pond system on the property was found to be non-compliant with consent conditions and dairy effluent from the second pond was flowing 40 metres down a steep bank into the unnamed tributary of the Moumahaki Stream. The discharge to the tributary was dark coloured and odourous. The unnamed tributary was observed to be significantly affected along the entire 2.2 kilometre length.
Consent holders have a duty of care to ensure their effluent treatment systems are regularly checked and maintained to ensure consent compliance and the protection of our valuable freshwater resource. Council officers inspect dairy farms annually in the Taranaki region and when necessary undertake follow up inspections and/or enforcement action.
It’s disappointing that a small minority of farmers are still not operating to the required standards that the overwhelming majority of farms achieve.
The court has sent a clear message that those who do not take their environmental responsibilities seriously will be penalised.