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Published: 2002-01-30 00:00:00

A Reporoa farm company was find a total of $4500 on two charges of discharging cowshed effluent onto land where it may have contaminated a stream.

A Rotorua court was told that in September 1999, Environment Waikato officers discovered a tributary was discoloured and that effluent from a holding pond was discharging onto land and flowing into it. The owners, Graham and Keith Thomas, were spoken to but six weeks later nothing had been done about pumping out the ponds.

When further inspections were made in late November and January, effluent was overflowing the ponds, across the land and into the watercourse. Water samples were taken and total suspended solids, biochemical oxygen demand, and faecal coloforms were grossly higher than those upstream from the discharge.

The tributary was seriously polluted and analysts report advice that the levels would have had "a major adverse effect on the natural biology, ecology, and recreational values of the waterways and streams and rivers to which they drain."

By early February the ponds were combined and enlarged, which appeared to have remedied the problem.

Judge C. J. Thompson said there was a measurable effect on water. With 6000 dairy farms in the Waikato Region, the need for compliance and enforcement was obvious. The Resource Management Act was aimed at the potential cumulative effect of farmers failing to take steps to responsibly dispose of effluent.

Insufficient attention was paid to dealing with the problem, he said. While there was an attempt to comply with the pumping out and enlargement of the ponds, more effective steps needed to be taken.

No profit was gained and there was no previous history of offending, he said. He accepted that the Thomas family had long espoused good husbandry of the land, and they found the consequences of prosecution unpalatable and embarrassing.

Judge Thompson said an overall penalty of $6000 was appropriate with a deduction for the responsible attitude taken towards guilty pleas. Ninety percent of the fine is to be paid to Environment Waikato.