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Published: 2002-07-04 00:00:00

A forestry contractor has been fined $4000 for discharging contaminants to the Karapiro Stream and constructing access tracks

Environment Waikato took a prosecution against contractor Paul Carter in relation to the harvesting of 42 hectares of pine trees on a block of land at Hickey Road on State Highway One south of Cambridge.

In fining Mr Carter, Judge R.G. Whiting said an appropriate penalty for the offence would be around $21,000 but he deducted $4000 for an early guilty plea, and $13,000 for what the defendant had spent in remedial works and paying Council expenses.

The site was on generally steep land overlooking the Karapiro Stream, which was classified as important for trout and spawning habitat. The classification gave it the most restrictive suspended sediment discharge standard of any surface water class in the proposed Regional Plan.

The Judge said it was significant that about 60 land owners in the upper catchment had formed the Whitehall Landcare group following community concerns about water quality issues in the stream. The group had erected 22 km of fencing, planted 3000 native plants and retired 220 ha of land from grazing.

The site was inspected as harvesting was nearing completion in November 2000 and Environment Waikato staff found excessive tracking, and skid road cleanings and soil had been pushed streambanks. Insufficient erosion and water controls had been established, an unstable slash heap had been pushed into a steep gully head, pipes used for the gully crossing were grossly undersized and there had been a direct discharge of soil and sediment to the stream.

The company was asked to take remedial measures and the area was inspected again in March 2001, where it was found that sediment dentition ponds were filling with dirty runoff, one had burst its banks and three ponds were discharging turbid water to the stream. Sediment discharge standards were grossly exceeded.

An abatement notice was issued but re-vegetation work was not undertaken.

The Council had received complaints about the level of tracking, visual effects and sediment discharge.

“The felling of our forests, whether native or exotic, have in past times been carried out with little or no regard to the effect on our environment, particularly our waterways. The Resource Management Act has put the obligation of avoiding such pollution on the commercial entities engaged in such activity. It behoves such entities, and those responsible for them, to take appropriate care,” Judge Whiting said.

He said a penalty needed to be imposed which not only reflected the defendant’s responsibility, but also sent a message of deterrence to others engaged in the industry.
The fine, less 10 percent, is to be paid to the Council.