Waikato farmer fined nearly $100k for 'reckless', illegal effluent discharging

A Waikato farmer has been fined more than $96,000 for illegally discharging effluent into the environment and undertaking unlawful earthworks.

Earthworks erosion discharging into a stream from the Te Kauwhata property. Source: Supplied/Waikato Regional Council

Randal Greenbank and his company, Whakapona Farms Ltd, have been convicted after a proactive farm inspection of the Te Kauwhata property by Waikato Regional Council on July 24 last year.

The inspection found an effluent storage pond had been overflowing into a nearby waterway and effluent from a travelling irrigator was running into a farm drain.

While at the property, council staff also inspected earthworks being undertaken by Greenbank to form a driveway as part of a lifestyle block subdivision. They discovered the earthworks had resulted in large volumes of soil being excavated with no erosion or sediment controls, resulting in sediment entering two streams. The streams had been diverted or the stream beds excavated.

On September 11 last year, another inspection by council staff found the travelling irrigator over-irrigating effluent that ran off into a farm drain. 

The waterways to which the effluent and sediment was discharged ultimately fed into the Whangamarino wetland, which is listed as being of international significance.

Whakapona Farms Ltd and Greenbank were subsequently prosecuted by the council for breaches under the Resource Management Act and sentenced in the Hamilton District Court by Judge Melinda Dickey. 

A conviction and fine of $64,125 was imposed on Whakapona Farms Ltd regarding the three unlawful effluent discharges. Greenbank was convicted and fined $32,062.50 for the unlawful earthworks.

Judge Dickey noted the effluent offending was highly reckless and that the earthworks were careless to the highest degree and that Greenbank simply didn’t pay any particular regard or have any concern for the requirements of the relevant planning documents.