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Dairy company fined $48,000 for discharging effluent which turned Hawke’s Bay stream green

A Hawke’s Bay dairy company has been fined $48,750 for illegally discharging 80,000 litres of effluent into a stream, turning it green.

Maxwell Farm's effluent discharge. Source: Supplied

Maxwell Farms Ltd pleaded guilty to allowing the effluent to enter the Mangatutu Stream. The stream is a tributary of the Tūtaekurī River in the north-west of Napier.

The incident on December 23, 2019 resulted in a health warning telling people not to swim in the river for a week.

The company was sentenced in the Hastings District Court today by Judge Melinda Dickey. The case was brought to the court by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council for a breach of the Resource Management Act.

The acting farm manager had not been properly trained in effluent management or using the farm’s irrigator, which is a breach of their resource consent, the regional council said.

Katrina Brunton, the council’s manager of policy and regulation, said the council was “particularly disappointed” in the incident.

“The Tūtaekurī holds significant cultural value to local iwi and is used for recreational activities. This incident forced the closure of a popular swimming hole in the river for a week, which meant families were unable to enjoy using it over the summer holiday period,” she said.

“The bacteria resulting from the addition of nutrients to river water can pose a risk for contact recreation like swimming and boating and affect stock drinking water quality.

“Following this incident, the ammonia concentration in the downstream samples was around 90 times the guideline value and was likely to have had toxic effects on aquatic organisms over the length of the tributary.”