Dairy effluent discharges result in large fines

A farmer and a family company have been convicted and fined a total of $65,750 for unlawful discharges of dairy effluent on two Waikato farms.

Ian Douglas Troughton and GT & AB Limited were convicted and sentenced by Judge David Kirkpatrick in the Auckland District Court for offences under the Resource Management Act.  The discharges occurred between December 2015 and March 2016 at farms located at Patetonga and Turua.

The prosecution, brought by Waikato Regional Council, followed a complaint about effluent management practices on one of the farms in December 2015. A council inspection found that effluent had overflowed from a small sump flowing 130 metres across the paddock and into a farm drain that linked to the Piako River.

The farm had previously been inspected in 2012 by the council and Mr Troughton had been advised that the effluent storage was inadequate and at high risk of overflowing.

Council staff inspected another property owned by Mr Troughton in March 2016.  A pipe was found to be discharging dairy effluent from an underpass directly into a paddock where it had formed a large pond. The effluent had also made its way to a farm drain that links to the Waihou River. Council staff gave direction to the farmer to clean up the effluent. However this was not done.

The council’s investigations manager Patrick Lynch said:  “The inadequacy of the effluent management system on the first farm was clearly pointed out to the farmer some years ago but he elected to do nothing about it.

It is disappointing that we have had to revert to prosecution to, hopefully, bring about positive behavioural change. We trust that the fines imposed here serve as a reminder to all farmers to have adequate storage for their dairy effluent and be vigilant with their management of their systems.”

I wasn’t questioning how many dairy farms were in the Waikato, and fully understand the enormity of this task. However once a non-compliant farmer IS identified the task is made 100% easier.

Part of the pollution problems we have is down to a few farmers that won’t act and carry out compliance requirements when advised and this gives all farmers a very bad name, when in fact it is a few that should where this title.

Fishing and Outdoors newspaper

The bigger issue here is once the Counciil found that ‘Mr Troughton had been advised that the effluent storage was inadequate and at high risk of overflowing

in 2012 is why did the Council not closely monitor it?

Why did it take 3-4 years and why did the Council wait for and act on a complaint?

cheers

Graham

Waikato Regional Council

Hi Graham

Re your comments below:

·     We were disappointed that guidance was given to Mr Troughton, as it is given to many farmers, and he elected not to act on it.

·    We trusted that he would act on the advice given to him.

·    There are approximately 4500 thousand dairy farms in the Waikato and we are simply not able to visit every farm on a regular basis.  We are reliant on the eyes and ears of the community to make us aware of potential breaches so that we may respond accordingly, as occurred here.

·    You will note that it was a proactive inspection of the second farm that found the discharges there.

Stephen

Stephen Ward senior communications advisor (media)
Waikato Regional Council

Fishing and Outdoors newspaper

In this case the non-compliant farmer was identified, he was given advise as you say. Then there is a time period of 3-4 years before Council acted on a complaint made by a member of the public!!

Really, so from what you are saying Council ignored the non-compliant farmer until a complaint was made by a member of the public.

This is exactly where the problem lies.

Council are not following up on non-compliant farmers.

I would presume that the number of non-compliant farmers would be relatively small at 5% of 4500 that would be 225. Hardly a difficult task given the time period of 3-4 years!!

This shows that Council need a major shakeup on how they deal with this issue surely.

Graham

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