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Greens moot tougher penalties for polluters

17 August 2008

Greens moot tougher penalties for polluters

The next Government needs to increase instant fines possible under Resource Management Act regulations for serious polluters of rivers and lakes, Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman says. "We would like to discuss with regional councils exact details so changes are as practicable as possible, but it might be that maximum infringements for discharging into waterways increase from $750 to $2000 for first offences and then up to a maximum $10,000 for repeat offences in any three year period," he says.

"Obviously fines are not the first option, it's much better to work with farmers and other industries, as I am doing, to try to make sure we never get to the point of issuing fines. "But when education and collaboration don't work, councils need to be able to impose fines that mean something.

An industrial dairy operation with a turnover of $5m or more can laugh at a $750 fine."> Last week Greater Wellington Regional Council said in a statement that of 146 farms audited as a 'snapshot' across the region last summer and autumn, 30 percent were non-compliant and it had issued '> 38 advisory notices', 13 "please explain" letters and seven may be fined. Wellington's statement about the lack of "any decrease in the level of non-compliance" follows news in recent weeks about Southland having to go to court to get larger fines for four large dairy farms polluting streams.

Wanganui/Manawatu's Horizons sent out warning letters to 900 farmers in June and July after saying river water quality was at risk, and Otago Regional Councillor Duncan Butcher said in the Otago Daily Times on June 13, 'Money, education and consultation with industry have failed to achieve the environmental outcomes the council and community desire of dairy farms'. Says Dr Norman, "Increased fines would not be designed to target your family farmer, but are a recognition that the nature of farming is changing with the emergence of large industrial scale dairy farms with huge potential to pollute rivers and lakes.

"Regional councils are trying to deal with a nationwide problem of deteriorating waterways, but with outdated and greatly inadequate powers. Unless they go to all the expense and trouble of trying to prosecute the worst farmers, the maximum infringement carries a fine of only $750.

"This is less than a slap with a wet bus ticket for the new breed of city-based multi-millionaire industrial dairy farmers. They might spend more than that a week on dinners out with corporate mates in Auckland's Ponsonby Road or Christchurch's Oxford Terrace. "Some regional councils have been lobbying for years for a 'mid-level' regime of higher instant fines under the Resource Management (Infringement Offences) Regulations 1999 as an interim step before needing prosecution."


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