14 Nov 2023

Whakatāne kiwifruit firm fined $35,000 for unlawfully taking water for irrigation

6:43 pm on 14 November 2023
Gold kiwifruit vines at Terahu Orchard Limited with irrigation sprinklers.

Gold kiwifruit vines at Terahu Orchard Limited with irrigation sprinklers. Photo: Supplied by Bay of Plenty Regional Council / Toi Moana

A Whakatāne kiwifruit business has been fined $35,000 for unlawfully taking more than 18 million litres of water for irrigation.

Terahu Orchard Limited was permitted to take 35 cubic metres of water a day but an inspection in November last year found it was taking more - and an abatement notice was issued.

Another inspection in February found the orchard was using more than 500 cubic metres a day - more than 14 times the allowed amount.

In the Tauranga District Court last week the company pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking water.

Toi Moana Bay of Plenty Regional Council regulatory compliance manager Matthew Harrex said that there were no excuses for the orchard's inability to comply.

"Kiwifruit orchards require large volumes of water for irrigation purposes in the summer and frost protection in the winter. The fact that it was a dry summer, and the defendant needed to take more than was permitted, is no excuse."

Terahu bought the land in May 2021 converting it from a maize farm to a gold kiwifruit orchard.

With no irrigation infrastructure in place, the defendant applied for a resource consent to drill a bore for 35 cubic metres of groundwater, but did not get consent for a water take.

Harrex said that the regional council did not take such instances lightly.

"The regional council has been working with the kiwifruit industry for the last 10 years to identify and address unconsented water takes. This result sends a strong message that regional council is actively assessing compliance on unconsented water takes and will take enforcement action where required."

Upon sentencing the orchard, Judge J A Smith said avoiding a resource consent for a water take was not cost effective.

"The cost of a licence for gold kiwifruit is significant. They have become a significant capital expenditure which requires significant investment to get a significant return. The possibility of not being able to have adequate water to feed these plants defies any commercial sense of reality," Judge Smith said.

Judge Smith said that the unlawful water take went against the tikanga and kawa related to the aquifer that Terahu extracted from, offending the interests of tangata whenua.