A Morrinsville farmer has been fined more than $33,000 for illegally discharging dairy effluent into the environment. The volume of effluent was such that cows udders were dragging in it.
The case, brought by Waikato Regional Council, concerned an event in December 2011 on a farm near Morrinsville, managed by David Van Bysterveldt and owned by The David Van Bysterveldt Family Trust.
Council staff inspected the Morrinsville property following a complaint from a member of the public that effluent was being mismanaged on the farm.
The attending council staff observed that the feed-pad was thick with effluent and came halfway up one of the male staff member’s size 13 gumboots.
The effluent storage pond at the end of the feed-pad was so full that inspectors could not determine where the feed-pad ended and the pond started. The only indicator of where the feed-pad ended was a single electric wire which was in place to prevent cattle from entering the pond.
Effluent was running from the feed-pad down on to the race and into at least three adjacent paddocks.
One of the employees on the farm stated that he made a decision to scrape the feed-pad as the effluent was so deep that some cows’ teats and udders were touching the effluent.
The council investigation established that the farm had developed an abnormally high stocking rate of 5.37 cows to the hectare over a period of time leading up to this incident. (The regional average is 2.88 cows per hectare)
Mr Van Bysterveldt pleaded guilty to a charge under the Resource Management Act arising from the incident. He was convicted and fined $33,075.
The case was heard in the Hamilton District Court before Judge Melanie Harland who commented that there were inadequate contingency measures built into the effluent storage system and that “improvements to the effluent storage system should have preceded, or run more closely in tandem with the increase in stock numbers”.
Responding to the defendant’s claim that adverse weather had been a factor, Judge Harland also commented that there have been “enough cases now to warn dairy farmers that sufficient storage capacity to cope with unseasonable weather is a necessity”.