5 May 2011

Effluent penalty for farm owner and manager

6:01 am on 5 May 2011

A Northland farmer has been fined $54,000 for polluting waterways with dairy effluent.

Mervyn Pinny of Kerikeri had denied charges brought against him by Northland Regional Council, relating to a farm he owns at Awarua, near Kaikohe.

Farm manager Hugh Bolton, who lives on the property, earlier admitted three charges and was fined $10,000.

The court heard that on separate occasions in 2009, large volumes of effluent from a farm irrigator and a cow standing-pad found their way into a stream.

The effluent also ponded up to 40cm deep on low lying parts of the farm.

In a reserved decision, Environment Court Judge Gordon Whiting said owners of dairy farms have the authority and responsibility to intervene if an effluent system is inadequate.

He said owners could not lightly escape that responsibility via a contract of employment or agency.

Northland Regional Council says the fines send a clear message to farmers that effluent must be managed in accordance with the law.

Operations director Tony Phipps says prosecution was a last resort and Pinny was given plenty of warnings.

He says the case is all the more disappointing because Pinny is an experienced farmer who owns or operates more than a dozen beef and dairy farms in Northland.