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Poor dairy farm effluent management leads to $89,000 in fines

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 8:00 a.m.

Three dairy farmers were sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday for the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent after separate prosecutions brought against them by Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

In the first case, Mark Stuart Dibley was fined $32,500 plus costs for allowing effluent waste to flow over land at three different locations on his farm at Oturoa Road, Rotorua.  Effluent from the discharges reached a roadside drain on Oturoa Road and a watercourse in the Lake Rotorua catchment.

The three charges against Mr Dibley followed a routine compliance inspection of the farm by Bay of Plenty Regional Council on 2 November 2011, when a Council officer found effluent from the farm's sump overflowing, effluent from a travelling irrigator flowing overland to a watercourse, and effluent from the cowshed yard flowing over the farm to a drain on Oturoa Road.

In the second sentencing, Bayfield Farms Limited admitted two charges of unlawful discharge of dairy effluent, which had flowed into the Waitahanui Stream at Ōtamarākau, near Te Puke.

Bayfield Farms was fined $35,000 plus costs.

The charges related to a routine check by a Bay of Plenty Regional Council pollution prevention officer which was carried out on 22 November 2011 as part of Council's seasonal compliance monitoring programme.

Effluent from the farm's contingency pond was overflowing overland to a farm drain and then on to the Waitahanui Stream. Effluent from an underpass was also washed into the same farm drain when a nearby orchard irrigation system malfunctioned.

In the third sentencing, Noema Archie Watene admitted one charge of unlawful discharge of dairy effluent, which had flowed into a farm drain and then to Totara Stream at a farm at Rūātoki Valley Rd, Rūātoki.

Mr Watene was fined $21,440 plus costs.

The charge related to a routine check by a Bay of Plenty Regional Council pollution prevention officer which was carried out on 10 November 2011 as part of Council's seasonal compliance monitoring programme.

The effluent had overflowed from an open pipe on the farm that was intended to carry effluent from the cowshed to the farm's effluent pond. Mr Watene had removed the top of the pipe to deal with blockages but left the pipe exposed so that overflows went to the nearby drain.

Enforcement orders were also imposed requiring Mr Watene to attend an effluent management course and to provide an effluent management plan for the farm to the Council's satisfaction.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said the sentencing of these three farmers highlighted the need for dairy farmers to be proactive in managing effluent, rather than attempting to get by with systems that are barely able to cope with farm effluent at the best of times.

"It's disappointing that we continue to see cases where the herd size has increased considerably (as in Dibley and Bayfield Farms) but the farmers have not given adequate attention to improving the farm's effluent system or effluent management system to reflect the increased herd size," Mr Zaman said.

"The Council encourages farmers to attend effluent management courses and to make use of resources regarding effluent management provided by organisations such as Fonterra, Dairy NZ, and the Regional Council. We hope these sentences serve as a deterrent to others," he said.

For information and advice on farm management visit www.dairynz.co.nz or call your Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Officer on 0800 884 880.

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