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Farmer pleads guilty over effluent disposal

Published: 14/06/2012 1:57 p.m. 
A sharemilker in Flemington, near Ashburton, has pleaded guilty to two charges of discharging effluent into waterways during April and May 2011.

Joel Townshend has been fined a total of $25,000 and ordered to pay costs of nearly $500. The company he is director and shareholder of, Charlann Ltd, has also pleaded guilty to the same offences. They have been fined $17,000 in total, costs of almost $500 and told to pay Environment Canterbury’s investigation costs of a little over $3,000.

Judge JR Jackson noted that while neither defendant has previous convictions they should have been aware of their wrongdoings as the farm had been issued an abatement notice in December 2010 because of problems with effluent ponding.

“The farm has resource consent to dispose of the effluent from approximately 650 cows through a centre pivot irrigator onto paddocks. Conditions of consent state this cannot be done within 20 metres of a surface water body or artificial watercourse or where the runoff is likely to enter either one,” said Environment Canterbury Resource Management Director Kim Drummond.

“However, on both occasions effluent was discharged directly into an artificial waterway that in turn feeds into Blees drain. Waterways like this are important for the local ecosystem serving as habitat to a number of aquatic animals, birds and plants as well as being a source of drinking water for stock and other wildlife.”

During sentencing Judge Jackson referred to waterways like Blees Drain, saying they were considered to have high water quality until recent years when the aquatic value has been reduced somewhat. He pointed out that the retention and management of high quality habitats are a particular focus of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy 2010, with specific relevance to the zone committees such as the one for Ashburton.
 
Judge Jackson also said he accepted that the first offence by the defendants was an unintentional mistake; nevertheless he still considered it moderately serious. Yet the second offence was deemed even more so given the deliberateness with which the irrigator was switched on at night and the light covered to avoid detection by the neighbour.

Kim Drummond hopes the sentence handed down by the judge will act as a deterrent to others and reaffirm the importance of taking all practicable steps to protect the natural environment.

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