Large fine for farmer over unlawful effluent and earthworks

 A pond overflow into waterway on the farm .
A pond overflow into waterway on the farm . Photo credit: Supplied

 A Waikato farmer has been fined $96,000 for environmental offences labelled as "highly reckless" and "careless" by a judge.

Randal Greenbank and his company, Whakapona Farms Ltd, have been convicted and fined for unlawfully discharging effluent into the environment and undertaking unlawful earthworks.

The Waikato Regional Council said a farm inspection in 2018 at the Te Kauwhata property found an effluent storage pond had been overflowing into a nearby waterway and effluent from a travelling irrigator was running into a farm drain.

While at the property, council staff also inspected earthworks being undertaken by Greenbank to form a driveway as part of a lifestyle block subdivision. 

They discovered the earthworks had resulted in large volumes of soil being excavated with no erosion or sediment controls, resulting in sediment entering two streams. The streams had been diverted and/or the stream beds excavated.

Earthworks erosion discharging into stream.
Earthworks erosion discharging into stream. Photo credit: Supplied

Following another inspection in September 2018, council staff again found the travelling irrigator over-irrigating effluent that ran off into a farm drain. 

The waterways to which the effluent and sediment was discharged ultimately fed into the Whangamarino Wetland, which is listed as being of international significance.

Whakapona Farms Ltd and Mr Greenbank were subsequently prosecuted by the council for breaches under the Resource Management Act and sentenced in the Hamilton District Court by Judge Melinda Dickey. 

 A conviction and fine of $64,125 was imposed on Whakapona Farms Ltd regarding the three unlawful effluent discharges, while Greenbank was convicted and fined $32,062.50 for the unlawful earthworks.

Judge Dickey noted the effluent offending was highly reckless and that the earthworks were careless to the highest degree and that Greenbank didn’t pay any particular regard or have any concern for the requirements of the relevant planning documents.