A dairy farmer who allegedly said a council would never “get a dime out of me” for dirty dairy offending now says he will pay up, though he maintains he “never, ever polluted”.
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SUPPLIED Offending on a dairy farm near Eketahuna, owned by Huka View Diaries Ltd, that led to fines of $103,000 being imposed on the company and director/manager Derek Berendt.

Eketahuna farmer Derek Berendt and his company Huka View Dairies were fined $51,750 each in January after pleading guilty to allowing effluent to enter a waterway and keeping silage too close to water.

The fine of $103,500 is the largest imposed for ‘’dirty dairy’’ offending in the 2020-2021 year.

Berendt, who manages the farm about 7 kilometres north of Eketahuna, was charged by Horizons Regional Council after failing to heed warnings and abatement notices requiring him to comply with rules that protect waterways.

The offending went on for months in late 2018, with the discharges entering an ephemeral (sometimes dry) stream that flowed into the Hukanui Stream and the Mangatainoka River, made famous by its proximity to the Tui Brewery. Although there was no direct evidence, a scientist found the discharges would have affected aquatic life in the Mangatainoka.

In sentencing Berendt in December last year Environment Court Judge Bryan Dwyer said he had been aggressive and non-co-operative towards council staff, who he tried to keep off his property and only allowed them on when they were accompanied by police.

Berendt appealed the sentence to the High Court, which in June upheld the fines and Justice Matthew Palmer told Berendt he had been “his own worst enemy”.

Derek Berendt failing to heed warnings and abatement notices requiring him to comply with rules that protect waterways.
SUPPLIED Derek Berendt failing to heed warnings and abatement notices requiring him to comply with rules that protect waterways.

Palmer noted Berendt’s “consistent attitude of flouting and ignoring the effects of his actions on the environment”, his “blatant disregard for the council’s warnings” and his “disdaining contact with the Department of Corrections and the Court”.

He also noted that the Corrections report writer had recorded Berendt as saying the council was “not going to get a dime out of me”.

Berendt last week told Stuff he never made that remark, and the fine would be paid. “I’ve got no choice, do I?,” he said.

“We’ve learned a lot out of what we’ve been through. I’ve been dairying all my life, and I am very concerned at the power the Government and these people [council inspectors] have got. We never, ever polluted,” he said.

Although there was no direct evidence, a scientist found the discharges would have affected aquatic life in the Mangatainoka River, which flows past the Tui Brewery on SH2. (File photo)
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF Although there was no direct evidence, a scientist found the discharges would have affected aquatic life in the Mangatainoka River, which flows past the Tui Brewery on SH2. (File photo)

Berendt said the issue stemmed from a neighbour who complained to the council and was compounded by a personal clash he had with a council inspector.

“It’s personal from Horizons. We never polluted. It’s true that I was short with the council officer, but when he said he was going to get me I told him where to go. I don’t regret doing that,” he said.

“My advice to every farmer is that they need to carry a video camera or have a third party with them when they deal with these people, because in court your word doesn’t mean anything.”

The 2020/2021 year saw 20 companies and 13 individuals sentenced for their parts in 25 cases where dairy effluent entered rivers, streams, wetlands, or on to land where it could have entered waterways or groundwater.

Effluent from dairy cows contains nitrogen and phosphorus. When it enters waterways it causes excessive growth of weeds, algae and slime, and damages the habitat of fish, insects, and water birds. E. Coli in the effluent can be major health hazard when it enters waterways. (File photo)
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF Effluent from dairy cows contains nitrogen and phosphorus. When it enters waterways it causes excessive growth of weeds, algae and slime, and damages the habitat of fish, insects, and water birds. E. Coli in the effluent can be major health hazard when it enters waterways. (File photo)

Stuff has been collecting figures on the number of convictions for “dirty dairying” offences since 2009/10. These figures represent the most serious offending.

Fines of $1,214,725 were imposed in the latest year, 90 per cent of which will go to the regional councils undertaking the prosecutions.

A further 234 abatement notices and 176 infringement notices were issued.

The number of abatement notices in 2020/21 was below average (the annual average since 2009 is 336). The number of infringement notices was also below average (258) but the number of successful prosecutions, 25, was higher than the average of 24.

DAIRY EFFLUENT OFFENDING. SENTENCES 2020/2021:

  • $51,750 – Huka View Dairies Ltd; and $51,750 – Derek Berendt. Two charges each of discharging dairy effluent to land where it may enter water, and two charges of breaching an abatement notice. Prosecuted by Horizons Regional Council.
  • $101,250 – Gardon Ltd. Two charges of discharging effluent where it could enter water and one charge of breaching an abatement notice. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $52,500 Kauana Ltd. Partnership; and $35,000 Andrew Chrystall. One charge of discharging effluent where it could enter water. Environment Southland.
  • $80,500 – John Lockwood. Two charges of discharging effluent to land where it may enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $33,600 – Philip Farms Ltd; and $27,200 – Shepherd Farms Ltd; and $3,000 – Robert Philip; and Bill Philip convicted and discharged. Various charges of discharging effluent where it entered land and may have entered water. Northland Regional Council.
  • $61,000 – Gerard Wolvers. Three charges of discharging effluent to land where it could and did enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $60,000 – Paddy Smith Ltd. One charge of discharging truck water that contained farm effluent onto land where it entered water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $52,500 – Trevor Aitchison. Two charges of discharging effluent to land where it may enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $49,000 – William Brunt. One charge of discharging a contaminant where it could enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $48,750 – Maxwell Farms Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it entered a stream. Hawke’s Bay Regional Council.
  • $46,900 – Trinity Lands Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent where it entered water. Andrew Archer and Birk Engelbrecht were discharged without conviction but ordered to pay $5000 and $2500 respectively to the council for court costs. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $42,350 – Rere Lake Farm Ltd; and Cody Joslin convicted and discharged. One charge of discharging effluent where it entered a stream. Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
  • $40,950 – K & MK Singh Farms Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it may enter water, one charge of discharging effluent that did enter water and one charge of breaching an abatement notice. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $37,125 – Natural Spreaders Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it may enter groundwater. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $35,000 – Brok Farming Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent where it entered water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $34,650 – Kaimai Farm Ltd; and $23,450 – Glen Ashford. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it entered a stream. Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
  • $33,500 – Sonya Liddle. Two charges of discharging effluent to land and water. Waikato Regional Council
  • $32,500 – David Major. Three charges of discharging effluent that entered water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $31,500 – Whakahi Dairies Ltd. one charge of discharging effluent to land where it might enter water. Also ordered to pay $15,000 to a kindergarten affected. Environment Southland.
  • $30,000 – Effluent Pumping Services Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land causing ponding. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $24,000 – Rerewhakaaitu Farm Ltd; and $5000 – Graeme Willacy. One charge of discharging effluent where it may have entered water. Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
  • $28,000 – Michael McMillan. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it may enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $26,500 – JB Thomas & Sons Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it could enter water. Waikato Regional Council.
  • $16,000 – Riverview Dairy Farm Ltd. One charge of discharging dairy effluent where it may enter water. Environment Canterbury.
  • $9,750 – Scott Farming 2012 Ltd; and $9,750 – Waiau Terraces Ltd. One charge of discharging effluent to land where it could enter water. Environment Southland.

 

THE Dairy Industry Code of Conduct has brought about a “significant culture change” within the dairy sector and helped increase competition at the farmgate, according to Australian Competition & Consumer Commission deputy chair Mick Keogh.

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