Waikato farmers rack up thousands in fines for unlawful effluent discharge

In the case of Wolvers, the pump was set up to deliberately pump effluent into the environment.
In the case of Wolvers, the pump was set up to deliberately pump effluent into the environment. Photo credit: Waikato Regional Council

Three farmers in Waikato have been fined a total of $116,100 for unlawfully discharging farm effluent into the environment.

In the first case Gerard Peter Wolvers was fined $61,600 after being convicted on three charges of unlawfully discharging dairy effluent into a nearby paddock.

The discharges, which took place over a two-day period in April 2018, were reported to the council by a member of the public. A subsequent inspection of Wolvers' property revealed a petrol-powered pump had been set up at the effluent pond for the purpose of lowering the pond level.

The effluent had been pumped into a nearby paddock where it had formed a flow path across farmland, and an "unknown volume of effluent made its way to a nearby watercourse that flows to the Waikeria Stream", the Waikato Regional Council said in a statement on Thursday. 

Wolvers, who has almost 50 years' farming experience, admitted to fuelling the borrowed pump, starting it, and then allowing it to run unattended until its fuel supply ran out.

A total of 300,000-400,000 litres of effluent was estimated to have been discharged.

In the second case Waikato farming company JB Thomas & Sons was convicted of discharging effluent via a drainage channel to a waterbody adjacent to the Waiotapu Stream in July 2019. The company was fined $26,500.

In another case a Michael David McMillan, a contract milker on a dairy farm in Turua, was fined $28,000 for the over application of effluent from a travelling irrigator in October 2018.

The effluent flowed into a drain system that ultimately flows to the Waihou River.

"I expect that many in the farming industry will be very disappointed to see such cases continuing to be brought against their peers,” regional compliance manager Patrick Lynch said on Thursday. 

"Particularly in the instance where there were three deliberate discharges of effluent into the environment by a vastly experienced farmer. These cases continue to be a source of frustration for all of those in the industry who have invested in the infrastructure to proactively manage their animal effluent effectively and work hard to manage it every day. I know that these cases also cause ongoing concern for the wider community and those advocating for an improvement in water quality."

The prosecutions were taken by the Waikato Regional Council under the Resource Management Act.

All three cases were heard by Judge Jeff Smith in the Hamilton District Court.