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Published: 2008-11-13 00:00:00

Environment Waikato is welcoming significant fines of more than $60,000 handed out to those responsible for illegal and environmentally damaging earthworks at a 129-hectare dairy conversion near Tokoroa.

The defendants, described by Environment Waikato as grossly negligent and having a “cavalier” approach to complying with resource consents, were this week fined a total of $62,000 by Judge Melanie Harland in the Hamilton District Court. Judge Harland agreed the case had involved significant negligence.

Calford Holdings Ltd and Tirau Earthmovers Ltd had each pleaded guilty to four charges, while contractor Ronald Thomas Park pleaded guilty to five.

Calford was fined $33,000 in total and ordered to pay EW costs of $23,453. Tirau Earthmovers was fined a total of $24,000, and Park faced fines and costs of more than $5,000 and sentenced to 300 hours community service.

The court heard previously the illegal way earthworks were carried out had resulted in large amounts of sediment polluting the Waioraka Stream at the site on Old Taupo Rd. The stream bed had been severely degraded in one area, with extensive sedimentation of the entire stream channel, the court was told.

Excessive sediment run-off into waterways can lead to problems such as the smothering of plant and fish life, and reductions in water quality.

In earlier submissions, counsel for Environment Waikato, John Munro, said the offending was either “deliberate or grossly negligent” and that the defendants acted in “blatant disregard of their obligations” under the resource consents obtained for the work.

Environment Waikato’s resource use programme manager Grant Blackie said after sentencing that the “substantial” fines sent a strong signal at a time when there had been an increase in earthworks-related offending in the region.

Mr Blackie said the council had recently undertaken a range of measures to educate contractors on their responsibilities while carrying out earthworks. Some had subsequently substantially lifted their performance over compliance with resource consents.

“However, it has become increasingly apparent that some earthworks contractors operating on farms or in rural settings often have total disregard for appropriate earthworks practices and are not meeting the minimum requirements to achieve compliance.

“Against a backdrop of rapid intensification of agricultural land use in the region – which includes deforestation and extensive dairy conversions – we are concerned that some are not taking seriously enough the need to comply with environmental requirements.

“So it is good to see the court taking a strong stand in this case. The council is keen to see appropriate fines for illegal earthworks activity, and we will continue to remain vigilant and take action where people are failing to follow the rules.”

Mr Blackie said contractors who needed advice on complying with earthworks-related rules were able to contact the council’s resource use group on 0800 800 401.