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Ngongotaha sawmill fined for air pollution

Friday, 13 September 2013 2:15 p.m.

A Ngongotaha sawmill has been convicted and fined a total of $20,000 and ordered to pay $10,000 reparation plus court costs for discharging contaminants to air on six occasions from March to August 2012.

Mamaku Sawmilling Company operates a timber mill in Wikaraka Street, Ngongotaha and burns wood chip in a boiler. Smoke from the boiler was discharged through a 14 metre stack into the air.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council brought the prosecution against the company following complaints from the sawmill’s neighbours about soot from the mill. The company’s consent to discharge to air was amended in February 2012 following complaints, to require the company to continuously monitor the quality of the smoke emitted.

In May 2012 neighbours complained that black soot was all over a nearby house and car. The company’s records showed that it exceeded the air discharge limits in its resource consent. Video footage showed black smoke billowing from the stack towards the complainant’s property.

The Regional Council issued an abatement notice to the company to stop discharging in a manner that breached their consent. However the Council received more complaints in July and August about smoke discharges from the stack, breaching both its consent and the abatement notice.

Apart from the immediate effects on the neighbouring properties, the Regional Council said the discharges from the mill contributed to the poor air quality in Rotorua. The Council had previously issued three infringement notices to the company in 2004, and an abatement notice in 2006 for breaching consent conditions.

Sentencing the company, Judge J A Smith said the company had a “sorry history” of the machinery it installed not being up to specifications, despite considerable efforts over eight years to comply. It had spent significant amounts to find a solution to its discharge issues.

The Judge said that the offences had had a significant impact on nearby Ngongotaha residents.

He fined the company $12,500 for breaching the abatement notice, and $7,500 for the other offences, with $2,000 reparation to be paid to each of the five complainants.

Judge Smith said that the starting point of the fine would have been $100,000 or higher if the company hadn’t been making efforts to achieve compliance. He also recommended a community liaison group be set up.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Team Leader Steve Pickles said the benefits that companies received from having a consent came with corresponding obligations to comply with any conditions imposed by the consent.

“Neighbours have been regularly affected by these discharges from the site and the Regional Council has been aware of a high level of concern from neighbouring property owners,” he said.

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Mamaku sawmill soot