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Published: 2009-07-31 00:00:00

Poor relations between dairy farm owners and sharemilkers cannot be any sort of excuse for breaking effluent management rules, says an Environment judge.

The comment came this week in a Tokoroa District Court ruling from Judge Melanie Harland concerning a Putaruru dairy farm owned by The Crossing Ltd at the time of the offending. Its sharemilker was We 8 Yoko Ltd.

Both defendants pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawfully discharging untreated dairy shed effluent on to land last year in circumstances where it may enter groundwater. The Crossing Ltd was fined $13,000, while We 8 Yoko Ltd was fined $9,750.

Judge Harland noted that at the time of the offending the relationship between farm owner and sharemilker was strained. "This resulted in poor communication between the defendants which left open the possibility of ineffective management of the farm."

However, Judge Harland said each defendant was required to fulfill its legal obligations regardless of relationship difficulties. "It can never be said that a poor relationship is a justification for choosing a course of action that results in a breach of the law."

On offending by The Crossing Ltd, the judgement said that an Environment Waikato inspection had revealed a stockpile of effluent stored beside a sump because of problems with the sump. That resulted in effluent flowing approximately 500 metres away from the sump, with the risk it could have entered groundwater.

The charge against We 8 Yoko Ltd related to the over-application of effluent on to paddocks.

EW’s complaints and enforcement manager Rob Dragten said: "This case, and the judge’s comments, highlights how farmers and sharemilkers need to ensure they work together to manage effluent in accordance with the law."