Two companies responsible for “chronic and insidious” dirty dairying have failed to pay fines of $225,000 imposed by the Environment Court.
Official figures reveal that the number of abatement and infringement notices issued nearly doubled to 683 in the past year, across all councils.
Clear Ridge Station Ltd and Beejay Stud Ltd were convicted on multiple charges in Whangarei in October. Farms owned by the sister companies discharged a huge amount of untreated dairy effluent into the Manganui River, which feeds into the Wairoa River and the Kaipara Harbour.
Clear Ridge Station, which held 800-900 cows, was described as being “awash with dairy effluent”, resulting in “gross contamination” of the river from multiple sources with the presence of pathogens such as campylobacter being “highly likely” and ammoniacal nitrogen levels 50 times above the toxicity threshold for invertebrates in the waterway.
Of the offending at Beejay Stud, Judge Craig Thompson said: “I can’t recall any case as bad as this in terms of prolonged non-compliance. It was blatant, ongoing and serious”.
Revelations of the breadth and seriousness of dairy pollution comes at a critical time a week out from the general election. Labour and National are locked in a battle over whether farmers should pay royalties for the waters they use to irrigate their farms, in order to help pay for the clean-up of polluted streams. On Monday, farmers are to march through Morrinsville, the Waikato hometown of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, to protest her proposed water royalties.
On Saturday, Green Party leader James Shaw said a combination of dairying intensification and increased council awareness was behind the increase in pollution notices.
Councils were acting faster to protect waterways and, while many farmers were doing their part, it was “the tail end” that needed to be hurried along, he said. “That’s why putting a charge on the pollution itself and ploughing that money back to the farming community is what we’re proposing.”
Chris Allen, Federated Farmers’ board spokesman for water and environment, said the fact that the abatement and infringement notices issued for dirty dairying had nearly doubled was disappointing. “Federated Farmers congratulated all those farmers who have been fully compliant,” he said, “and for those who have non-compliance, whatever the reason being, we’re very, very disappointed.
“It’s also a sign of the time that the regional councils are taking the issues seriously, just like the farmers are, but there obviously a bit more work to be done.”
Both the Northland farms had a long history of fines and enforcement action. Clear Ridge was fined $90,000 and Beejay Stud $135,000. Ninety per cent of the fines were to be paid to the prosecutor, Northland Regional Council.
Charges against the director of both companies, David Webster, were dropped after his companies pleaded guilty.
Both farms were later sold. Property records show that Clear Ridge sold for $4.56 million in January last year, but there is no record of when the farm owned by Beejay was sold, or the sale price.
Nearly a year on, the council has not received a cent from the convicted companies.
Northland Regional Council compliance manager Tess Dacre said the council contacted the court on March 3 over the companies’ failure to pay the fines. On August 9 the Ministry of Justice told the council that warrants to seize property were in the hands of a bailiff and “we are hopeful in an outcome in few weeks”.
However, the Ministry of Justice’s group manager national service delivery, Bryre Patchell, confirmed: “Bailiffs acting on behalf of the court have unsuccessfully attempted to execute a warrant to seize property.”
Dacre described the offending’s environmental effects as “chronic and insidious”.
“It is very unfortunate that Clear Ridge Station was a new dairy conversion undertaken in 2011 and Northland Regional Council was not contacted prior/during the conversion (Fonterra signed it off). The dairy is sited in a poor position (ie. close to a waterway) for a start. The effluent pond was constructed in a riparian management zone and it leaked from the start,” she said.
“Wetlands were destroyed (also a prosecution taken by NRC) and earthworks for the construction of the races were very badly done, resulting in significant sediment discharges to water. NRC is only too happy to offer advice and guidance if contacted early in the process.”
The prosecutions cost the council more than $50,000, Dacre said.
Webster could not be reached for comment.
Offending by the two Northland farms was the worst of the 14 companies convicted and fined for dirty dairying practices in the 2016/17 year.
Information obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act revealed a significant increase in the number of abatement notices (from 239 to 410) and infringement notices (144 to 273) issued last year.
DIRTY DAIRYING ENFORCEMENT BY REGIONAL COUNCILS:
Year Abatement notices issued Infringement notices issued Convictions*
2009/10 445 394 51
2010/11 387 340 31
2011/12 337 370 26
2012/13 290 221 34
2013/14 303 253 21
2014/15 289 183 14
2015/16 239 144 9
2016/17 410 273 14
* Convictions may be for offending that occurred in previous year.
OFFENDING BY REGION 2009/10 – 2016/17
Regional Council Abatement notices issued Infringement notices issued Convictions No.of dairy farms
Waikato 102 259 35 4500
Taranaki 825 121 13 1721
Canterbury 112 121 12 1309
Horizons 141 133 9 934
Northland 1084 914 10 919
Southland 113 265 25 890
Bay of Plenty 146 101 29 650
Otago 2 87 50 465
West Coast 50 67 6 396
Auckland 65 45 1 267
Wellington 29 37 2 175
Tasman 14 4 7 131
Hawke’s Bay 8 20 0 79
Marlborough 6 3 0 54
Gisborne 0 0 1 5
Nelson 3 0 0 3
TOTAL: 2700 2177 200 12,498
CONVICTIONS IN 2016/17:
1 – Beejay Stud Ltd fined $135,000 (prosecuted by Northland Regional Council)
2 – Clear Ridge Station Ltd fined $90,000 (Northland Regional Council)
3 – Adolf Hardegger and Hardegger Trustees Ltd each fined $35,700 (Environment Southland)
4 – GT & AB Ltd fined $35,750 and Ian Troughton fined $30,000 (Waikato Regional Council)
5 – Klaas Waslander fined $60,000 (Environment Southland)
6 – Cazjal Farm Ltd fined $52,500 (Waikato Regional Council)
7- Te Wae Wae Dairies Ltd fined $52,500 (Environment Southland)
8 – Rymanda Farms Ltd fined $38,403.75 (Waikato Regional Council)
9 – Fernaig Farms (2006) Ltd fined $33,750 (Waikato Regional Council)
10 – Mairangi Dairies Ltd and A&H Dairies Ltd each fined $29,000 (Environment Canterbury)
11 – Kahu Ma Farms Ltd fined $27,000 (Bay of Plenty Regional Council)
12 – Hinemoa Dairying Ltd fined $15,900 and Daniel Clark fined $10,700 (Otago Regional Council)
13 – Liquid Calcium Ltd fined $23,750 and Jadyn Jury fined $7,150 (Otago Regional Council)
14 – Gladvale Farm fined $18,750 (Environment Southland)
By: MARTY SHARPE
Source: Sunday Star Times