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Forestry Operators Fined For Damaging A Stream And Discharging Sediment

Slash left in in stream after harvesting.

Farman Turkington Forestry Ltd, AM Forest Harvesting Ltd and the company directors (Guy Farman, Michael Johnstone and Anthony Johnstone) have all been convicted and fined for damaging a tributary of the Taueru River and discharging sediment during a forestry harvesting operation on the Cleaver Forest Block, Masterton.

Greater Wellington Regional Council laid a total of 25 charges against the operators almost a year ago, in June 2019. The case concluded today (Friday 5 June 2020) in Wellington District Court with a fines for each of the companies.

The starting point for fines was $130,000; Judge Thompson allowed discounts from that for early guilty pleas and previous good behaviour. This resulted in fines of $51,000 for Farman Turkington Ltd and $25,800 for AM Forest Harvesting Ltd.

In passing sentence the Judge commented that, “The operation fell short of the standard that could reasonably be expected of professional foresters”. He also stated, “A penalty has to bite and should not be set at a figure that can be looked at as the cost of doing business”

The damage and discharges occurred during the harvesting of trees on Cleaver Forest Block between September and December 2018. The council attended after it received photographs showing impacts on a stream. When council officers attended, and investigated, they discovered that there was extensive damage to the banks and bed of the stream on the property. There were a series of failures to prevent sediment and forestry slash from entering the stream.

It was determined that National Environmental Standards for Forestry had been breached and the operation was undertaken without a resource consent.

The effects of this type of works and the resulting sediment discharges are; damage to the instream habitat for aquatic life and direct effects on water quality downstream during the period of discharges. The issues with the operation were put down to poor planning and management of the site.

Since the incident all defendants have put efforts into remediating the damage done and improving their environmental performance. They cooperated with the council investigation and recognised that they needed to do better. In recognition of the individuals’ (Guy Farman, Michael Johnstone and Anthony Johnstone) cooperation and good character, the Judge granted discharges without conviction. He directed they each should pay $5,000 as a contribution to the council’s costs in properly bringing a prosecution.

“It is important that operators engage properly with the council and seek resource consents where appropriate”, said council Environmental Regulation Team Leader, James Snowdon, “Professional operators should plan carefully and if they don’t understand the regulatory requirements, seek advice. We would rather be advising people on how to minimise their impact on the environment than taking them to court”

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