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Published: 2009-07-23 00:00:00

Two road building companies have been fined a combined total of more than $13,000 for failing to prevent significant amounts of sediment flowing into waterways during the construction of a passing lane near Te Kuiti last year.

In the Hamilton District Court this week, Schick Construction & Cartage Ltd and Transfield Services (NZ) Ltd were fined $7,370 and $6,000 respectively after earlier pleading guilty to one charge each of breaching the Resource Management Act.

The court heard that during a period of heavy rainfall in April last year there were significant problems with erosion and sediment control measures at the construction site.

Those problems lead to excessive levels of sediment getting into watercourses running through the site, which were tributaries of the Mangarama Stream. As a result, testing of water quality at various sites showed levels of suspended solids were far higher than permitted levels.

Environment Waikato, which brought the prosecutions, noted how elevated levels of suspended solids can have a significant negative effect on water quality and the use of waterways.

Judge Melanie Harland noted both companies took steps to sort out the problems once they were identified by EW and the site was fully compliant by May 2008. The judge noted that remedial works were undertaken at the site costing more than $100,000.

She also said she was satisfied the offending was "a one-off event that was precipitated by unseasonable rainfall". But she added "at that time of year, within this region, rainfall and even heavy rainfall events are to be expected".

Judge Harland said: "In terms of culpability, I accept that the actions of both defendants were careless, both in the construction and oversight of the erosion and sediment controls".

Environment Waikato programme manager Grant Blackie said: "This decision sends a clear signal that companies involved in road building have ultimate responsibility for ensuring they design and operate effective erosion and sediment controls in compliance with resource consent conditions."