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Canterbury dairy farm fined for effluent discharge.

Published: 17/03/2009 11:59 a.m. 

Central Canterbury dairy farming company, Corlette Holdings Limited, has been fined $10,000 after pleading guilty to two charges. For the first charge, effluent from an irrigator resulted in ponding and caused run-off. For the second charge, effluent was discharged which may have resulted in contaminated water. The case was heard in the Christchurch District Court earlier this year.

An Environment Canterbury officer inspected the farm on May 8, 2008, and found that effluent from a travelling irrigator had created severe ponding and run-off on surrounding land. The defendant claimed that a broken hydrant prevented the irrigator being moved. The discharge contravened an abatement notice that the regional council had issued on January 26, 2006, which was still in effect.

Upon reinspection of the farm on May 16, effluent was again observed in and around the travelling irrigator. The boom was spinning but the irrigator was not travelling. The company’s managing director Murray Corlette said that although he had seen the irrigator, he had not checked to see if it was moving.

Judge Jane Borthwick noted that the property is some distance away from drains and other natural waterways and that there was little actual damage to the water table or nearby Lake Ellesmere. The Judge also accepted that the discharge and ponding on each occasion was due to mechanical failure and that the defendant had spent money improving the effluent system between 2002 and 2008. However, while the defendant had not intended to discharge the effluent illegally, the Judge ruled that there was a lack of diligence in terms of inspecting and maintaining the equipment and supervising its operation. The judge noted that equipment failure is all too common on dairy farms.

Corlette Holding Limited’s action breached sections 338(1) (c) and 340(1) (a) of the Resource Management Act 1991 with regard to the contravening of the abatement notice and section 15(1) b in regard to the employee discharging effluent.

No aggravating features were identified, and the Judge gave credit for the guilty plea and Mr Corlette’s co-operation in the investigation.

Judge Borthwick imposed a fine of $6000 and $4000 for each offence respectively and ordered the defendant to pay ECan’s investigation costs of $900. The Judge also ordered Corlette Holdings to pay court costs of $130. Ninety per cent of the fine was paid to the regional council.

For further information: Kim Drummond, ECan Director Regulation, 03 372 7232, 027 497 8366.

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