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Whakatane farmer fined for illegal earthworks

Tuesday, 17 February 2015 10:00 a.m.

A Whakatane farmer has been ordered to pay a total of $110,504 for illegal earthworks in the Nukuhou River.

Philip Wilson, who farms at Wainui Road near Ohiwa Harbour and is a director of earthmoving business Wilson Bros Earthmoving Ltd, was prosecuted by Bay of Plenty Regional Council under the Resource Management Act for disturbing and diverting the Nukuhou River, discharging sediment into the Nukuhou River and contravening an abatement notice.

Wilson was fined $52,487, and ordered to pay costs of $58,017.

In July 2011 the Council discovered the defendant had been carrying out unauthorised earthworks with a digger in the channels of the river and a nearby tributary.

An abatement notice was issued to stop the works, and three months later three infringement notices were issued for disturbing the stream bed and operating a digger in the river.

In May 2013 a Council officer noticed a digger was working near the river adjacent to the defendant’s farm and six separate areas of earthworks were found, involving about 5,300 cubic metres of earth. Mr Wilson said he thought he was allowed to do the work.

The court heard his illegal works had increased the river’s velocity, increasing flooding and creating more erosion. The excavated material was deposited into the river and had discharged into the harbour.

The work had permanently moved the river channel, increased sediment discharge to the river and increased instability of the river banks. The total cost of remedial works is estimated to be $63,000.

Regional Council Pollution Prevention Team Leader Steve Pickles said the penalties of more than $110,000 sent a powerful message about the potential consequences of carrying out unlawful river works. 

“The sentence imposed on Mr Wilson should dissuade any farmers or contractors in the Bay of Plenty who are tempted to embark on an unauthorised stream or river works project with a digger,” he said. 

Nukuhou River