Farm hit with $66,000 f ine

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A Lake Brunner farm has been fined a total of $66,000 for potentially allowing dairy effluent to enter creeks that flow into Lake Brunner, and for contravening an abatement notice.
Te Kinga Farms Ltd of Rotomanu was today convicted in an Environment Court case at Greymouth District Court of three breaches of the Resource Management Act.
The first charge was allowing dairy effluent from an overflow pipe to discharge into a dry ditch, which potentially discharged into Tube Creek, a feeder stream to Lake Brunner, on December 19, 2012.
It was also convicted of allowing discharge from a stock underpass onto land, which could then have flowed into Kangaroo Creek on September 27.
The third conviction was for contravening an abatement order from the West Coast Regional Council to cease the discharges.
The farm was fined $19,000 for the December 19 effluent discharge, $28,000 for the September 27 discharge, and $19,000 for contravening the abatement notice. However, a number of charges against the farm owner, Donald Leslie Harcourt, were earlier withdrawn.
Lawyer Doug Taffs said when Harcourt bought the farm he inherited an effluent system consisting of a pump from the farm’s milking shed to settling ponds and a discharge pond. He said it it had been a system that Harcourt had not met before.
In an attempt to avoid a “catastrophic blowout” Harcourt had installed an overflow pipe.
An inspection by the council on September 27 had raised concerns about the pipe, as well as a pile of effluent by the side of the cow shed, run-off from which had flowed to a stock underpass, where it had pooled and had the potential to run into Kangaroo Creek.
He said Harcourt had also not been aware of the ditch, filled with compacted effluent, as it was covered with vegetation. It was only when three cows fell into the bog in 2012 that Harcourt had used a digger to uncover it.
However, Mr Taffs said that Harcourt made a “rod for his own back” when he did so as heavy rain filled the ditch. Despite Harcourt using a pump truck to suck up 69 and 58 loads of effluent from the ditch on two occasions, heavy rain filled it up.
He said there was nothing more at the time Harcourt could have done with the ditch until it stopped raining and the weather improved.
He also said since the offending, Harcourt had installed a 700,000 litre effluent tank, and had borrowed $300,000 to install a new effluent control system.
Prosecutor Alastair Logan accepted the offending was not deliberate, but negligent. “There ought to have been much more careful management to collect, contain and dispose of the effluent”.
However, he said there was “a degree of deliberateness” about the offending.
Judge Brian Dwyer said the issues with the drain were inherited when the farm was bought by Harcourt. He said the remedial work that Harcourt had done on the farm was a “tangible reflection of remorse”,
However, he could offer no credit for Harcourt’s guilty pleas, which had been made at the start of a three day Environment Court hearing on March 11.
The fact that the farm had total assets of $6.9 million meant it was capable of paying the fine, he said.