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Waikato dairy processing company fined $200k over objectionable odour, contaminating local river

A Waikato dairy processing company has been fined more than $200,000 for discharging an objectionable odour with a "profound" and "serious" impact on the local community, as well as the unlawful discharge of wastewater which contaminated a local river.

Open Country Dairy Limited was last week convicted and fined $221,250 in the Morrinsville District Court - the largest fine imposed for any prosecution under the Resource Management Act in the region, the Waikato Regional Council said in a statement.

The case against the processing company comes after the council launched a formal investigation after received numerous complaints from local businesses and residents in Waharoa, near Matamata, during two separate periods in 2018.

During the periods, residents reported an ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour which ranged in impact from having to keep windows and doors shut, to headaches and vomiting.

In March 2018, the council found that the events were connected to the company's wastewater pond liner, which resulted in the contamination of the Waitoa River.

"This is the fifth prosecution of this company, or its predecessor, relating to unlawful discharges into the environment,” the council's investigations and incident response manager, Patrick Lynch, said. "We have the greatest sympathy for the Waharoa community who have to try living with the terrible impacts this stench has caused.

"This large fine sends a very clear message to this company that their operation has to be environmentally sustainable."

In sentencing, Judge Melanie Harland stated that the odour impacts on residents were "profound and, of their kind, serious".

An enforcement order, which the company agreed to, was also issued, prohibiting further objectionable odour to be discharged from the site.

The order also requires the company to have a Community Communication Plan to keep the community and council informed of any issues at the plant which may result in further objectionable odour being discharged.

Dairy cow (fire picture). Source: istock.com