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Fonterra fined for Edgecumbe overflows

Friday, 31 July 2015 3:00 p.m.

Fonterra Limited has been fined a total of $174,150 in Tauranga District Court for six separate offences under the Resource Management Act.  Fonterra pled guilty to all six charges and was sentenced by Judge Smith at a hearing on 27 July.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council brought the prosecution against Fonterra after four failures of Fonterra’s wastewater (whey) irrigation system at Edgecumbe and two overflows of wastewater to the stormwater system at Fonterra’s Edgecumbe plant resulted in pollution entering the Rangitāiki River and other smaller waterways between September 2014 and April 2015.

Wastewater can deplete oxygen levels and makes water more acidic. In a river or stream it can cause fish kills and other adverse effects. Of the two wastewater discharges from the Edgecumbe processing plant, one occurred as a result of mechanical failure, and the other due to human error.

During the hearing, Bay of Plenty Regional Council staff presented evidence that Fonterra had failed to put adequate systems in place to prevent the overflowing wastewater from discharging beyond the site, into the Rangitāiki River and a nearby drain.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Pollution Prevention Manager Nick Zaman said that he hopes the ruling will prompt Fonterra to set higher standards for environmental protection in future.

“The discharge of dairy wastewater directly to the Rangitāiki River from a system failure was disappointing.  The Rangitāiki River is important for migratory and indigenous fish, it has white bait spawning sites, and is culturally very significant to a number of iwi including Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Ngāti Whare, Ngāti Manawa and Ngāi Tuhoe.  It’s the Pataka Kai – Food basket for iwi.”

Regional Council has put a lot of effort into working with the dairy farming community in recent years and we’ve been pleased to see a real shift towards more responsible practices.

“Farmers across the region are becoming more environmentally aware and vigilant about protecting waterways. They’ve been investing in infrastructure upgrades and more robust effluent management systems. It’s important that Fonterra, as the large corporate body owned by dairy farmers, leads by example and ensures it has the right infrastructure and maintenance regimes in place to protect the environment from its activities, every time,” Mr Zaman said.