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Published: 2015-08-04 00:00:00

A farmer has been convicted and fined $72,750 for deliberately discharging dairy effluent into farm drains that flow to the Tairua River on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Peter Craig Darrah was convicted and sentenced by Judge Jeff Smith in the Thames District Court yesterday for eight offences under the Resource Management Act (RMA) spanning discharges that occurred over an 11 year period between 2003 and 2014.

The prosecution, brought by Waikato Regional Council, arose after a complaint was received in August 2014 about effluent management practices on Darrah’s Hikuai Settlement Road farm near Tairua.

A council inspection found the farm’s effluent ponds were overflowing to water. Hoses were also found that appeared to be set up for the purpose of pumping effluent into farm drains. The subsequent investigation confirmed that pumping had been deliberately and routinely occurring over the previous 11 years.

An abatement notice was served on Mr Darrah to cease the unlawful discharges. Despite this he continued with the practice. On one occasion the pumping duration was found to be approximately nine hours resulting in over 300,000 litres of effluent being discharged into the farm drain.

The drain flows a short distance before entering the Boom Stream – this stream flows about 1.5 kilometres to the Tairua River.

“In some respects this is about as bad as it gets,” said council investigations manager Patrick Lynch. “Often we find discharges that result from carelessness, or even negligence, but someone deliberately polluting is rare, thankfully.

“However, the fact the discharges continued after the farmer was formally directed to cease is quite staggering. 

“This sort of activity not only has a significant impact on the immediate environment but also causes unfair damage to the reputation of the wider farming community.”