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Horizons prosecutes environmental polluters

Friday 27 July 2018

Three of five prosecutions Horizons Regional Council currently has before the courts have been found guilty for environmental offending.

Horizons strategy and regulation group manager Dr Nic Peet says there are around 5000 active consents in the region.

“Council has an active compliance monitoring programme and also responds to pollution incidents,” says Dr Peet

“We take our role as an environmental regulator seriously and prioritise significant sites where there is the most potential for environmental impact. Where appropriate we put serious matters before the Court.”

Earlier this week, Le Poulet Fabuleux Limited was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court by Judge Dwyer. The Court imposed a fine of $57,000 in relation to the discharge of effluent and washwater from a chicken rearing operation located in Himatangi.

Dr Peet says the discharge, detected by Horizons staff on 10 March 2017, was entering a farm drain that is a tributary of Lake Koputara - a rare and threatened habitat under the Regional Plan.

“The Court noted Le Poulet Fabuleux Limited is a large commercial operation which had been very careless in how it had managed its disposal of washwater and effluent,” says Dr Peet.

“While the exact duration of the offending could not been determined it was agreed that it had been for a period of time, which resulted in a sustained discharge of wastewater into the farm drain and ultimately the lake.

“The Judge commented that large commercial operators should be aware of their legal responsibilities and manage their business accordingly. While it was noted the company now had procedures in place to ensure wastewater is disposed of lawfully, these measures should have been in place from the outset.

“This decision highlights the fact that it is critical for resource users to have adequate systems and procedures in place to ensure the environmental impacts of their operations are appropriately managed and lawful.

“We recognise that Les Poulet’s guilty plea was a useful acknowledgement of the offending which reduced the time and costs of prosecution.”

Horizons has also recently received guilty verdicts in relation to two discharges that occurred in the Whanganui District. The first relates to the discharge of human wastewater from a Whanganui District Council pump station into the Mowhanau Stream in January 2017.

“Mowhanau Stream is a spot valued by the Kai Iwi community and is culturally significant to iwi,” says Dr Peet.

“Horizons is conscious that the prosecution process comes at a cost to both Whanganui and regional ratepayers and we’ve done our best to keep these costs down, however the issues were significant enough that they needed to be brought in front of the Court.”

Horizons third successful prosecution relates to the discharge of wastewater from Land Meats NZ Ltd into the Whanganui River in March 2017. Both Whanganui cases will proceed to sentencing over the next few months.

“Two further prosecutions are underway but cannot currently be commented on,” says Dr Peet.

“Elsewhere around the region we continue to use other regulatory tools such as enforcement orders, infringement notices and consent reviews for non-compliance issues.

“These determinations are a timely reminder of the very real responsibility consent holders have regarding compliance and undertaking activities in an environmentally friendly manner.

“Members of our community are encouraged to report any environmental incidents to our 24 hour Pollution Hotline on 0508 800 800.”

ENDS

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