16 Oct 2013

Farmers back big fine for effluent breach

6:52 am on 16 October 2013

Dairy farming leaders are supporting the hefty fine imposed on a Waiuku farmer for discharging effluent into a waterway.

The Auckland District Court on Tuesday fined Fenwick Farms $114,000 after it admitted pumping dairy shed effluent straight into a stream which feeds the Waikato River.

A former employee of the farmer thinks the heavy fine was justified - and that it should have been higher.

"Should be paying more for the amount of effluent on it. He knew what he was doing. There was no remorse about it. The only remorse he's got is probably getting a fine, and that's it," the former employee said.

Federated Farmers Waikato president James Houghton says severe penalties are needed to deter the increasingly small number of farmers who are still breaking environmental rules and tarnishing the dairy industry's reputation.

"And the bad ones, hopefully, they either get pretty quickly weaned out or found out," Mr Houghton says.

Federated Farmers supports the Waikato Regional Council's actions in pursuing people who damaged the environment and did not behave ethically and morally, he says.

Council staff inspected the farm last year after complaints from the public and found it was pumping effluent straight into a nearby stream.

Council investigations manager Patrick Lynch says staff could not believe what they were seeing.

"They found a couple of more run of the mill type issues and then, as they were checking their way through the system, they found that it was set up to deliberately pump effluent into the stream," he says.

Mr Lynch says the fine is a record for the Waikato region. It follows a $47,000 fine handed out to a Te Awamutu farmer who was convicted on 10 charges relating to effluent breaches on three farms.