Region's farm investors, managers urged to heed hefty fines

Fines totalling $204,000 imposed by the Environment Court today send a strong message to anyone who has invested in dairy farms, as well as their operators/managers, says the Taranaki Regional Council.

The fines were handed down to Blue Rata Investments Ltd ($86,250), Farm Ventures Ltd ($75,000) and the sharemilker’s company Khloby Dairy Ltd ($42,750) after the Council took them to court over discharges of dairy effluent and silage leachate into a tributary of the Mangatete Stream at Ōkato in April, May and June last year. Blue Rata owns the farm amd Farm Ventures manages it. All parties pleaded guilty.

The Council’s Director-Resource Management, Fred McLay says the discharges arose from substantial carelessness in the way the effluent treatment system and the silage pit were managed and operated. Various parties, including Blue Rata, have been the target of enforcement action for previous non-compliances at the farm on a number of occasions since 2008.

The discharges last year resulted in green discoloration of the stream for up to 100m and other downstream effects including the growth of sewage fungus up to 140m from the discharge. Maize silage leachate in particular is highly toxic to stream life and this discharge would have overwhelmed the stream’s natural processes and functions.

“The case highlights the fact that all parties involved in a dairy farm – including any passive investors not normally involved in day-to-day operations – have a duty of care to ensure environmental and legal obligations are met.,” he says. “You can’t just say it’s up to the manager or operator or staff. You need to know when things are going wrong, and you need to be proactive and check compliance and ensure any faults are addressed with fit-for-purpose equipment. ”

He says all dairy farm investors, managers and operators need to:

  • Be aware of the conditions on their resource consents.
  • Be proactive and make regular checks to ensure resource consent and regional plan requirements are being met. It’s not good enough to rely on the Council compliance inspection to identify any compliance issues.
  • Ensure that any improvements to waste treatment systems are robust, effective and will work.
  • Ensure that waste holding ponds are properly managed so they don’t overflow.

For more information see www.trc.govt.nz/dairy-effluent/.

Today’s fines are the highest imposed by the Environment Court in Taranaki for offences  involving farm dairy effluent discharge.  The previous highest was $62,000 imposed in 2009.