Legacy Funeral Homes Limited Faces Penalty For Unlawful Discharges
Legacy Funeral Homes Limited has been convicted and fined a total of $70,000 for unlawful discharges of offensive and objectionable cremation smoke and ordered to pay reparation for emotional harm of $15,000 in total to directly impacted persons who provided victim impact statements.
Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council prosecuted Legacy for five unlawful discharges from the defendant’s crematorium, each of which was in contravention of an abatement notice. Legacy pleaded guilty to representative charges relating to the five discharges.
Regional Council Compliance Team Leader Trudy Richards said, in sentencing, Judge Kirkpatrick acknowledged the extent of the emotional damage the discharges caused and the lack of apology or remorse.
“This was an unusual case to investigate and prosecute, as there are really no comparable cases across the country. It has been a long process to get it to this point and we are pleased to get a positive result in the courts,” she said.
Legacy applied to the Regional Council for a certificate of compliance for discharges to air from the proposed crematorium in 2011. At this time cremation were a permitted activity, meaning that no resource consent was required. The application stated that the cremator proposed to be used should produce no smoke emissions or other visible discharges, and the levels and rates of discharge of contaminants would be well below permitted levels.
The first complaints were received in 2014 by a neighbouring property owner. This led to a full investigation by the Regional Council, as well as a number of site visits, interviews and monitoring. The team also set up a camera to monitor any discharges. At the time the team was not able to prove a breach to the required standard, so no enforcement action was taken.
The Regional Air Plan was updated in 2020, meaning that discharges of contaminants to air from crematoria became a controlled activity and required a resource consent. Legacy applied for a consent and this was granted in August 2021 with a number of conditions. Unfortunately, these conditions were breached shortly after, with neighbours reporting thick black smoke with a chemical smell. These breaches continued into December 2021 and early 2022.
In the sentencing decision, Judge Kirkpatrick said the issue was not so much that the cremator malfunctioned, or that Legacy had difficulties in getting assistance from the manufacturer or others due to pandemic restrictions between November 2021 and April 2022, but that its response was not as immediate or as empathetic as it should have been given the nature of the discharge.
“Bluntly, Legacy let its neighbours down. Having acquired a funeral home in a rural-residential area, it made the decision to establish a crematorium and mortuary on the same site. That choice carried with it an increased responsibility for ensuring that it could control the effects of those new activities.”
The abatement notice remains in place and Legacy has not carried out any cremations at its own facility since May 2022. The resource consent review is in progress.
For more information on environmental enforcement and to view the sentencing decision, please visit our website boprc.govt.nz/environmental-enforcement