The actions by the farmer and his son, which resulted in raw effluent spilling across their farm, put multiple at-risk native species which call coastal dune wetlands home in danger.
Graham Arthur Sexton, his company Donview Farms Ltd and his son Matthew Hutton Sexton were collectively fined $78,750 in the Levin District Court on Monday for discharging effluent and breaching an abatement notice.
Donview had a resource consent issued in August 2011 for a dairy farm operation near Foxton, adjacent to the coastline.
Since the property was home to numerous permanent seasonal wetlands, which are considered rare of threatened habitats, Donview had strict consent conditions around the storage and discharge of effluent.
The Sextons were also required to build and maintain an effluent storage facility before July 2013.
Horizons inspectors in January 2019 found the storage pond was not built, while the Sextons were not complying with effluent discharge conditions.
An abatement notice was issued in June 2019, giving instructions on how to tackle the problems.
While the pond was installed by Christmas 2019, effluent discharge was still a problem during Horizons inspections in February 2020, April 2021 and July 2021.
Effluent was running into wetland areas and ponding on top of paddocks.
One sample from a wetland came back as raw effluent or heavy contamination.
The April 2021 inspection found the effluent storage pond had never been used, with Matthew Sexton telling inspectors there was no permanent infrastructure to get effluent from a sump to the pond.
Graham Sexton is no stranger to Horizons, with the council issuing him an abatement notice in 2010 after he illegally dug through sand dunes to drain floodwater from his farm.
He was also sentenced to two years and nine months’ jail in 2009 after using a quad bike to run over his neighbour in February 2007.
The attack, part of a long-standing dispute between Sexton’s family and his neighbours, took place after a confrontation on Foxton Beach about poaching between a Sexton family member and a neighbour.
When the victim tried to leave in his car, he was stopped and threatened.
He called police, but before officers arrived Graham Sexton showed up, chased the victim with a quad bike, ran him over and parked on top of him.
The victim suffered a serious cut to his head, grazes and bruising.
Prosecutor Emma Pairman told the court on Monday the environment was ecologically sensitive, given the number of wetlands and sandy soils.
The fact the Sextons knew what was going on but failed to fix it over a long period of time negated any discount for prior good character, even if they had been open about the problems, she said.
Judge Brian Dwyer said the fine would have been much higher if there was proven harm to at-risk native species from the effluent.
He also ordered the Sextons to comply with an enforcement order, requiring them to work with Horizons to clean up their practises.