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

A Taupo farm company has been find a total of $13,000 on several charges of discharging cowshed effluent.

Valley View Ltd and farm manager David Barham were charged with breaches of the Resource Management Act, discharging cowshed effluent onto land which could have resulted in contaminants entering groundwater or the headquarters of the Ongarahu Stream.

A court in Rotorua heard that Environment Waikato officers visited the property following a complaint in May 2000. Cowshed effluent was overflowing the holding pond, flowing along a race and over paddocks until it reached a boggy area about 1 km from the holding pond. An employee said the pumping system was damaged and he had been told not to operate it.

The company directors were told the following day that the situation was quite unsatisfactory and a further inspection would be made within a week. At the second inspection effluent was being pumped to an irrigator in an adjacent paddock, but the effluent was flowing off at a high rate through a culvert and onto another paddock.

The company was told it would be prosecuted on the incidents in October and the property was inspected again in December. The situation was the same although not as serious, and Mr Barham was warned and told the pond had to be pumped out.

Judge C. J. Thompson said while there was not a measurable effect on water, it was a serious charge of its kind. With 6000 dairy farms within the Waikato he said the potential for significant damage to the environment, in this case water, was obvious unless farmers accepted responsibility for efficient disposal of effluent.

The deliberateness of the offence and attitude of the defendants he regarded as being a significant aggravating factor. There was an attitude that was somewhat cavalier, he said. The incident was negligent and displayed an insufficient regard for the responsibilities that both the manager and the company carried.

Nothing effective was done to remedy the situation in six months, and the December offences occurred after the defendants had been told they would be prosecuted.

"I cannot interpret that as being other than an attitude that quite failed to address the seriousness of the situation and the responsibilities that they faced. By December everybody should have been on high alert and there should have been absolutely fail safe system in place."

Serious and effective steps had now been taken to deal with the problem on a permanent basis.

A penalty of $20,000 was appropriate to convey the seriousness of the offence, with a deduction for guilty pleas, he said. Mr Barham was fined $2000, and the company $3250 on each of four charges. Ninety percent of the fines are to be paid to Environment Waikato.