Waikato District Council has been fined $56,250 for its discharge of approximately five million litres of partially treated sewage into Raglan (Whaingaroa) Harbour in June last year.
The discharge was as a result of an overflowing treatment pond at the Raglan waste water treatment plant into an estuarine arm of the harbour. The overflow occurred over a three day period and resulted in contaminant flowing past the local boat ramp, camp ground and over shell fish beds.
In imposing the fine, Hamilton District Court Judge David Kirkpatrick noted that errors committed by district council staff were “of a systemic nature, revealing poor training, supervision and ultimate management”.
The judge went on to say “once the overflow commenced, the failure of the defendant’s staff to alert senior Council managers, the Council itself, the Regional Council and the community also seriously aggravated the offending.
“Such failures meant that the people who were or could be directly affected were denied any information on which they might have acted to avoid the potential consequential effects on their health that such a discharge could cause.”
No evidence had been submitted in the case that anyone had suffered any ill effect as a result of the discharge and that was “fortuitous”, the judge said.
Judge Kirkpatrick also acknowledged that the district council “as a public body, does treat its environmental responsibilities as important”.
The prosecution was initiated under the Resource Management Act by the Waikato Regional Council following an investigation into the incident.