A dairy farming operation fined more than $100,000 for allowing effluent to enter a waterway and keeping silage too close to water is arguing the penalty is too stiff.
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MURRAY WILSON/STUFF In the High Court at Palmerston North on Thursday, Derek Aaron Berendt​ and his company Huka View Dairies appealed against their sentence for breaching the Resource Managament Act.

Derek Aaron Berendt​ and his company Huka View Dairies were fined $103,500 for breaching the Resource Management Act.

Berendt and the company admitted the same four charges, relating to the management of silage and effluent on the farm, near Eketāhuna, the day the matter was due to go before a judge for trial.

In the High Court at Palmerston North on Thursday, Berendt and the company appealed against the sentence. Berendt is a 50 per cent shareholder and one of two directors in the company.

Defence lawyer Phillip Drummond said the fine was too big. He asked for an alternative sentence, such as community work or community detention.

Berendt wasn’t in a good financial position. He took meagre drawings of about $30,000 a year and the company had run at a loss.

“There’s no point in fining him tens of thousands of dollars when he’s on, effectively, the minimum wage.”

Drummond also asked for greater discounts to the sentence for the guilty pleas.

He acknowledged Berendt had made unfortunate comments to pre-sentence report writers, but said he would have no choice other than complying with a court order.

Justice Matthew Palmer said Berendt’s comments included: “They won’t get a dime out of me.”

Drummond said although Berendt had equity of $2.5 million-$3m in the company, to access that he’d have to sell or borrow from the bank. The latter wasn’t possible because the company’s bank was refusing to advance more cash.

Lawyer for Horizons Regional Council, Emma Pairman, said fines in such matters must be sizeable, otherwise they wouldn’t affect the entities concerned and act as a deterrent to ignoring environmental obligations.

“It must not be simply a cost of operation, something the company can pay out of its pocket and chalk up to a bit of mismanagement…

“This was serious, ongoing offending with culpability only just shy of a deliberate discharge.”

Horizons found problems on the farm between October 2017 and 2018.

The judge reserved his decision.

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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