Dirty dairy farmers yet to pay fines
Councils issue nearly twice as many pollution notices, reports Marty Sharpe.
Two companies responsible for ‘‘chronic and insidious’’ dirty dairying have failed to pay fines of $225,000 imposed by the Environment Court.
Official figures show the number of abatement and infringement notices issued nearly doubled to 683 in the past year, across all councils.
Chris Allen, Federated Farmers board spokesman for water and environment, said the figures were disappointing. ‘‘Federated Farmers congratulates all those farmers who have been fully compliant . . . and for those who have noncompliance – what ever the reason being – we’re very very disappointed.’’
He said the rising numbers could reflect the fact that regional councils are policing farm practices a lot more closely.
Clear Ridge Station and Beejay Stud were convicted on multiple charges in Whangarei in October.
Farms owned by the sister companies discharged a huge amount of untreated dairy effluent into the Manganui River.
Clear Ridge Station, which held 800-900 cows, was ‘‘awash with dairy effluent’’, resulting in ‘‘gross contamination’’. Of the offending at Beejay Stud, Judge Craig Thompson said he could not recall a worse case of non-compliance.
As the election nears, Labour and National are locked in a battle over whether farmers should pay royalties for their irrigation water in order to help pay for the cleanup of polluted streams.
Farmers are set tomorrow to march through Morrinsville, the Waikato hometown of Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, to protest her proposed water royalties.
Green Party leader James Shaw yesterday said a combination of dairying intensification and increased council awareness were behind the increase in pollution notices.
Councils were acting faster to protect waterways and, while many farmers were doing their part, it was ‘‘the tail end’’ that needed to be hurried along.
Both the Northland farms had a long history of fines and enforcement action.
Clear Ridge was fined $90,000 and Beejay Stud $135,000.
Charges against the director of both companies, David Webster, were dropped after his companies pleaded guilty.
Property records show that Clear Ridge sold for $4.56 million in January last year, but there is no record of when the farm owned by Beejay was sold, or the sale price.
Nearly a year on and the council has not received a cent in fines.
Northland Regional Council compliance manager Tess Dacre said the council contacted the court on March 3 over the companies’ failure to pay the fines.
The Ministry of Justice last month told the council that warrants to seize property were in the hands of a bailiff and ‘‘we are hopeful in an outcome in few weeks’’.
But the ministry confirmed that bailiffs had been unable to execute the warrant.
Webster could not be contacted.
A cow’s carcass on a farm near Dargaville run by Clear Ridge Station in 2015.