A concrete company has received a significant fine after emptying liquid contaminants into the Whangamatā Harbour.
Fletchers Concrete and Infrastructure Limited of Firth has been convicted and fined for unlawful discharge into the harbour following a prosecution taken by Waikato Regional Council.
The case followed a council inspection in June 2020 at the Firth Whangamata concrete batching site when staff found a pump emptying liquid contaminant from the site directly into the public reserve bordering the Moanaanuanu Estuary.
The contaminant then flowed overland into a tidal channel of the harbour.
The company was fined $60,000 last week by district court judge Melinda Dickey, having convicted the company in August 2021 following a guilty plea by the company.
Judge Dickey found the company was negligent.
"It exhibits a company failure to take its environmental responsibilities seriously," she says.
"I place the defendant's culpability as high in the sense that it had a resource consent that it chose not to rely on; choosing instead to pursue other mechanisms for managing water - which did not work or was non-existent."
Council Regional Compliance Manager Patrick Lynch said the council rely on companies to work in a safe and sustainable manner to reduce any negative impacts on the environment.
"Obviously we have to have concrete, and we are reliant on the industry that manufactures this kind of product," Lynch says. "But like all industries they need to operate in a sustainable manner, not having an undue negative impact on the environment. In this case the contaminant coming from the site had high alkaline levels and was potentially harmful to an important marine environment.
"We are happy to report that as a result of this case substantial site infrastructure improvements have been made by Firth to reduce the risk of contaminant leaving the site. However, this is all infrastructure that could, and should, have been in place already.
"This is a clear reminder to all industrial sites that manage potentially hazardous substances that they need to ensure their infrastructure is fit for purpose and offers a high level of protection to the surrounding environment."
Lynch went onto say that the council was working on a region-wide strategy to engage with all concrete manufacturers, aimed at encouraging a focus on environmental responsibility.