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Published: 2009-12-21 00:00:00

A Crafar dairying company Hillside Ltd has today pleaded guilty to four charges of unlawfully discharging effluent to land and breach of an abatement notice. These charges arose from a series of incidents between November 2007 and February 2008 on the company’s property situated at Kuratau, south west of Lake Taupo.

Hillside Ltd is one of the Crafar companies currently in receivership. The pleas were entered in the Hamilton District Court by the lawyer acting for the receivers. Sentencing of the company is expected early in the New Year.

In a related move, the prosecutor for Environment Waikato withdrew charges relating to the same series of offences against Hillside’s directors Allan and Frank Crafar, and Allan’s wife Elizabeth Crafar. Charges against Hillside’s sharemilker at the property Ronald Haket and his company Haket Farming Ltd were also withdrawn.

In comments issued outside the court enforcement spokesperson for the regional council Patrick Lynch said the guilty pleas on behalf of the company showed Hillside was formally accepting responsibility for the offending.

But the Crafars – who had previously entered not guilty pleas along with Mr Haket – had said they would need legal aid to defend themselves, raising the prospect of a long and expensive defended hearing, Mr Lynch said.

"Given Hillside’s guilty plea, plus the fact the Crafars have recently been convicted of similar charges and are in strained financial circumstances, EW has decided to spare the ratepayer the costs of an expensive court process that would provide little additional community benefit," Mr Lynch said.

"This in no way indicates that EW was not confident about securing convictions against the Crafars, Mr Haket and his company.

"But, in the circumstances, it was felt that gaining further convictions against individuals in this particular case would not provide any further deterrence."

Mr Lynch said the council was taking a pragmatic approach by withdrawing the charges. "At the end of the day, we look to act in the best interests of the wider community. We are satisfied that Hillside has been held accountable for the offending and that agreeing to withdraw the charges against the other defendants is the most reasonable course of action considering the overall circumstances."