Waikato farmer Aaron John Miller, and his company Ondaedge Farms Ltd, have been convicted and fined for unlawfully discharging dairy effluent into the environment.
On 3 October last year, Waikato Regional Council staff carried out a proactive dairy effluent inspection at the Puni (south west of Pukekohe) property.
Staff found the effluent storage pond to be overflowing into a nearby drain that ultimately led to the Waikato River.
Both Mr Miller and his company Ondaedge Farms Ltd were subsequently prosecuted by the council for breaches under the Resource Management Act and were yesterday (Thursday 27 June) sentenced in the Auckland District Court by Judge Melanie Harland.
A conviction and fine of $30,000 was imposed on Ondaedge Farms Ltd, while Mr Miller was convicted and discharged without further penalty. An enforcement order was also granted with regard to the assessment and improvement of the dairy farm effluent system.
Judge Harland noted the offending had occurred during spring, a wet time of the year when extra care was required. She said culpability for the offending fell between “reckless and careless” allowing the pond to become full to capacity.
Judge Harland further pointed to the fact that whilst the charges related to a single effluent discharge on the day, the cumulative effect of such discharges to the Waikato River was a case of “death by a thousand cuts”.
Judge Harland encouraged Mr Miller to share his experience and the impact the prosecution had on him with his wider farming network and community to encourage compliance within the dairy industry.
The council’s investigations and incident response manager, Patrick Lynch, said: “We take breaches of the RMA very seriously and will use all of the regulatory tools available to us to bring about positive behaviour change.
“For those few farmers who continue to let their own industry down, this fine sends a very clear message that unlawful effluent discharges into the environment will not be tolerated.”