A Huntly farmer has been fined $15,000 for illegally diverting water and constructing a stopbank in a wetland on his property.
The case, brought by Waikato Regional Council against Robert Beverland, concerned two events where drains had been created in 2010 and a 450 metre stopbank constructed through the wetland adjacent to Lake Whangape, at a farm owned by Mr Beverland.
The defendant pleaded guilty to two Resource Management Act charges arising from these incidents.
The matter was heard in Hamilton District Court before Judge Smith.
The farm, situated on Beverland Road near Rotongaro, contains a wetland that supports communities of native plants and animals. The wetland is a natural feature of the landscape around Lake Whangape. It forms part of the most significant percentage of remaining wetland habitat in the Waikato.
Council ecologist Dr Catherine Beard determined that this wetland is a very good example of nationally rare habitat, representative of its type, and supports endangered species.
The judge said the offending in this case was “clearly wrong and you knew it” when addressing Mr Beverland in his sentencing notes. However, the attitude of the defendant was “open and forthright” in dealing with the council. The judge concluded that the actions of Mr Beverland “were borne out of frustration and in the end, foolishness”.
The judge took a starting point for a fine of $50,000. However, due to a number of mitigating circumstances this was lowered to an end fine of $15,000 on one charge and Mr Beverland was convicted and discharged on the second charge. He was ordered to pay costs and fees of $495.58 on both charges.
Commenting on the case, the council’s investigations and complaints manager Patrick Lynch said: “Wetlands play an important role in helping to reduce the impact of flooding, sedimentation and contamination of waterways. They are also home to many threatened plants and animals. The vast majority of wetlands in the Waikato have been drained so it is important that we continue to protect those few areas that remain.”