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Published: 2010-07-29 00:00:00

Fines totaling $42,000 have been handed down to two Hauraki-based dairy farm owners and a sharemilker in the latest sentencing for dairy effluent offences.

These fines are as a result of prosecutions taken by Environment Waikato following its helicopter monitoring programme in August 2009.

In the first of two similar cases before the Hamilton District Court last week, owner John Pinnell and his sharemilker Stephen Jamieson were fined $16,000 and $10,000 respectively for two offences involving the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent on to land at a Kopu property.

In a second case, owner Mark Millington was also fined $16,000 for four offences involving the unlawful discharge of dairy effluent on to land at a Paeroa property.

An EW summary of facts in the Pinnell/Jamieson case said helicopter monitoring last year had identified a potential issue on a farm near Kopu and a follow-up ground inspection showed effluent had overflowed from the farm dairy sump adjacent to the Waipaturawa Stream and feed pad runoff had discharged into the farm drains. This inspection had followed an earlier formal warning to the sharemilker in 2008 over effluent getting into the stream.

In the Millington case, EW’s summary of facts also said a follow up inspection after last year’s helicopter monitoring showed a range of problems, including that effluent and feed pad runoff had discharged into the farm drains.

Both farms are located in the lower Waihou River catchment.

EW’s investigations and complaints manager Patrick Lynch said fines such as these are important reminders.

"These cases have reached their conclusion now though the offences arose nearly twelve months ago. RMA prosecutions work their way through the council and court processes and that takes time.

"However, these results should be taken as timely reminders to dairy farmers facing the challenges of the new season that they still need to be vigilant with their effluent systems.

"Potential fines for offending against the Resource Management Act have recently increased dramatically. Farmers who are prosecuted over their effluent management can expect fines to rise dramatically. It should be an obvious choice that farmers are better off spending the money on getting their systems compliant instead of having to pay fines as well as fixing the problems."

All dairy farms in the Waikato region will shortly receive a copy of an effluent checklist, as a result of collaboration between Dairy NZ and Environment Waikato. The checklist allows a farmer to do a self audit of their effluent systems.

EW is urging all farmers to use the checklist to identify system problems themselves, so that the problems can be fixed before an EW inspection that may lead to enforcement action.