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Mamaku farming company fined for effluent discharge

Tuesday, 28 October 2014 10:00 a.m.

A Mamaku dairy farming company has been fined a total of $49,875 in Tauranga District Court for two offences of discharging effluent to land where it could enter a watercourse, and one offence of breaching an abatement notice.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council brought the prosecution against Montheo Farms Limited of South Road, Mamaku, for two incidents in 2013 which breached both their consent and an abatement notice issued in 2010. The property drains into tributaries of the Ngongotaha Stream which flow into Lake Rotorua.

The farm has a consent to discharge untreated dairy effluent to pasture irrigation, with conditions limiting the discharge rate, ensuring that effluent does not flow overland to watercourses and requiring contingencies in case of system failure.

The 367 hectare farm milks up to 600 cows, an almost 50 percent increase in herd size from when the consent was first granted in 2000. At the time of the 2013 incident the farm had a sump and sand trap which collected effluent from the milking shed and pumped it to a travelling irrigator after each milking. There was very little effluent storage capacity on the farm.

In October 2010 a Regional Council officer inspected the farm and found the farm’s effluent sump had overflowed and ponded, flowing into a nearby drain. Two of the directors told the officer they intended to increase the herd size to 800 cows.

An abatement notice was issued, requiring Montheo Farms to take action to avoid dairy effluent being discharged to land where it could enter a drain or watercourse, and requiring it to comply with its consent conditions.

In November 2013 a Regional Council officer carrying out a routine compliance inspection at the farm found effluent-contaminated water flowing into a culvert. Effluent was also flowing from a ponded area down to a nearby gully. Samples showed extremely high faecal coliform levels.

Four inches of rain had fallen a couple of days before the inspection, and as the farm had no effluent storage it was very difficult to manage the effluent, the defendant said.

The court heard that high levels of faecal coliforms indicated a high risk of other harmful microbial organisms making the water unsafe for recreation or consumption. High nutrient loading also contributed to fish kills, excessive weed growth and toxic algal blooms.

Sentencing Montheo Farms, Judge Harland said that the defendant’s culpability was high.

The Council had put Montheo Farms on notice about the risk of their effluent system, and the company had focused on expanding their land and stocking rates rather than improve the effluent system. Since the offending the company had spent about $400,000 substantially upgrading their effluent system to ensure compliance with their consent.

Regional Council Chairman Doug Leeder said proper effluent management was particularly important in the Rotorua Lakes catchment.

“High nutrient discharges of this nature will impact on water quality,” he said.

Mr Leeder said the Regional Council did not take prosecutions lightly, and this was the only dairy effluent case taken by the Regional Council for the 2013/14 dairy season.

Cow highres