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Published: 2010-07-02 00:00:00

A co-owner of the McIntyre piggery near Morrinsville has been fined $45,000 for odour-related offences which forced local schoolchildren to pinch their noses to block intense smells in class.

The fine, following Kenneth Julian McIntyre’s third prosecution by Environment Waikato, was imposed by Judge Craig Thompson at the Hamilton District Court yesterday. McIntyre, of Kereone, had pleaded guilty to a representative charge of breaching an abatement notice between January and March last year.

The piggery – operating under a resource consent due to expire next year - is close to the Kereone school and community hall, as well as a number of private homes and farms.

An EW summary of facts said there had been numerous complaints in recent years from local residents about the smell from the piggery.

In late 2007, EW issued an abatement notice requiring the piggery to cease discharging objectionable odour beyond the boundary of its property.

Between 10 January and 18 March last year "the defendant contravened the abatement notice on numerous occasions by discharging objectionable odour beyond the boundary of the property", EW said. A total of 14 separate complaints from 10 sites, including Kereone School, were received.

The summary of facts said those affected included guests at a thirtieth birthday party in January at the local hall - odour had wafted through the open doors and windows.

In February, in an attempt to improve odour problems, the piggery decommissioned an effluent pond but spread effluent and sludge from trucks on to the property, and irrigated effluent on to the property in March. These actions led to further complaints including one describing the smell as "horrendous", while the school principal said children were forced to pinch their noses at times in class.

Two distinct types of odours were reported by locals. One was an "acrid, chemical" smell that could cause symptoms such as taste in the mouth, burning eyes and throat, a runny nose and headaches. The other type of odour was described as "sickly sweet pig smell and pungent dead animal smell".

Residents reported having to keep their homes closed up over summer to try to keep the smell out, and social events were interrupted. Two households and the school installed air conditioning systems as a result of the problems over the past few years.

McIntyre had been co-operative with the council and had accepted he had breached the abatement notice but felt he had been in a Catch-22 situation because he had been trying to empty the effluent pond to stop the odour it was generating. He said he had been working hard since earlier prosecutions to make the site compliant with its resource consent.

In 2006, McIntyre had been given infringement notices by EW for unlawful effluent discharges at the piggery. In 2007, he was fined $15,000 in court for a range of environmental charges, including one odour offence. In 2008, he was fined a further $35,000 for discharging odorous contaminants.

After fining McIntyre $45,000 for the latest offending, Judge Thompson also issued an enforcement order which reinforces a number of conditions from the operation’s current resource consent, including the removal of all pigs from the piggery by June next year.

"We are using every tool available to us under the Resource Management Act to try and achieve compliance on this site. The court has given clear direction to the piggery through the issue of an enforcement order, and this third conviction," said investigations and complaints manager Patrick Lynch.

"We sincerely hope that this latest court appearance will be sufficient to motivate Mr McIntyre to stop discharging objectionable odours."