A Hawke's Bay dairy farm has been fined for illegally discharging 80,000 litres of effluent into a stream which turned it green.
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Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The Hastings District Court today ordered Maxwell Farms to pay $48,700 in a prosecution brought by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.

Last year the farm company pleaded guilty to allowing the effluent to enter the Mangatutu Stream, a tributary of the Tūtaekurī River, in December 2019.

The stream was not swimmable for a week after the effluent was discharged.

Policy and regulation manager Katrina Brunton said the Hawke’s Bay community sent strong signals to the regional council that it valued clean water.

“To uphold these values, we are committed to enforcing the rules to protect the health of our environment and our community. The penalties applied by the court should deter this type of offending.”

Brunton said the regional council was particularly disappointed in this incident.

“The Tūtaekurī holds significant cultural value to local iwi and is used for recreational activities. This incident forced the closure of a popular swimming hole in the river for a week, which meant families were unable to enjoy using it over the summer holiday period.”

Brunton said the organic processes that broke down dairy effluent required a lot of oxygen, which could significantly reduce the ability of the water to support aquatic life.

“The bacteria resulting from the addition of nutrients to river water can pose a risk for contact recreation like swimming and boating and affect stock drinking water quality. Following this incident, the ammonia concentration in the downstream samples was around 90 times the guideline value and was likely to have had toxic effects on aquatic organisms over the length of the tributary.”

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust has teamed up with Calon Wen, and wants other dairy farms to join in.

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