The combined fines, worth less than $16,000, have led the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria to question if it is cheaper to pay an occasional penalty than install adequate effluent management systems.
The Environment Protection Authority this week said it had fined Maffra dairy farmers M&K Gault Pty Ltd almost $8000 for mismanaging effluent at a property on the Sale-Maffra Road last September.
The EPA found M&K Gault had allowed dairy effluent to spill into a creek that flowed into the Macalister River.
“M&K Gault has taken remediation measures and we’re hoping this infringement notice for $7929 will encourage and serve as a reminder to other dairy operators to manage their dairy effluent appropriately” EPA spokesman Stephen Lansdell said.
M&K Gault director Matthew Gault is also a director of Gray Wigg Gault Pty Ltd, which owns several farms in the Macalister irrigation district and is understood to be one of Murray Goulburn’s largest suppliers.
In August, the EPA fined Gray Wigg Gault $7929 for allowing up to 50,000 litres of dairy effluent to flow into a stormwater drain at Winnindoo, near Heyfield, in July last year.
In a statement, Mr Gault told The Weekly Times, “we’re disappointed”, but would not elaborate further.
United Dairyfarmers of Victoria president Adam Jenkins was surprised and disappointed the EPA had been required to issue the fines.
“One would question is it cheaper to pay an $8000 fine than to build an effluent plant?” Mr Jenkins said.
Mr Lansdell said both fines were the result of a community report and the EPA had issued about six fines to Gippsland dairy farmers for effluent mismanagement over the past year.
“To be fair, there’s no suggestion Matthew Gault was directly at fault, we’ve fined the company not the individual … we do take notice of corporate structures and he is a director of both” Mr Lansdell said.