Armer Farms NI Limited has been fined $72,200 for an effluent spill on a leased Maketu dairy farm.
Armer Farms NI Ltd, owned by Fonterra director Colin Armer, was sentenced in Tauranga District Court today after previously pleading guilty to the charge on May 31.
The effluent spill on the Maketu farm in October 2010. Photo: Supplied.
In sentencing Judge Robert Wolff said the defendant is the company, not the directors, or the farm manager.
Armer Farms lease of the Maketu farm has since expired.
The judge set his starting point for the effluent discharge that occurred in October 2010 at $80,000 and reduced the amount for ‘previous good character’ and the expression of remorse from Armer Farms general manager Mr MacPherson.
The maximum fine under the Resource Management Act charge is $600,000.
The leak occurred when the farm’s irrigation system failed resulting in dairy effluent ponding in a paddock, which then flowed across the land and into a stream.
The Judge commended the efforts of the farm manager and staff in acting promptly once they were aware of the leak in the pipe to the travelling irrigator.
At the time Bay Of Plenty Regional Council staff were on the scene as a result of neighbour’s complaints, the section of split pipe that caused the leak was replaced, and a bund had been raised to prevent further pollution.
That the stream was not particularly clean before the discharge would not count as a mitigating factor.
Armer Farms was criticised for not having a system in place for regularly checking the irrigator was operating correctly with the estimate of time the leak flowed unnoticed put at two to three days.
The same pipe had split a week or two previously.
Armer Farms installed the irrigator 11 years prior and it was expected to have a 50 year lifespan.
Armer Farms pleaded guilty in the Tauranga District Court on 31 May 2012. Sentencing was scheduled to take place on Friday, but submissions and dispute of the facts took up the day.
In sentencing today the judge said the dispute over whether the pollutant was moderate or severe was largely semantic.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention manager Nick Zaman says the dairy industry has been working hard to give farmers advice on their legal responsibilities to protect waterways.
“This sort of event is really discouraging for all the farmers and industry partners striving to exceed expectations - and for the farmers and farm owners who comply with their resource consents. Unfortunately, others fail to take the responsibility they owe the community.
“It’s unfortunate that this has come before courts because the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent is easily avoidable with the proper maintenance and checks in place.
“While we would prefer that there were no prosecutions at all, we do hope today’s sentence serves as a reminder to others that the courts, council, and the wider community, will not tolerate the pollution of our environment.
“This case in particular highlights the lack of tolerance the community has for this issue. It was a concerned member of the public who called our pollution hotline to report it. We thank her and urge others to do the same.”
Members of the public are encouraged to call the Bay of Plenty Regional Council’s 24-7 Pollution Hotline - 0800 884 883 - if they have any environmental concerns.
For information and advice on farm management visit www.dairynz.co.nz or call your Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Officer on 0800 884 880.