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$48,750 fine for Maxwell Farm's illegal discharge

IMG 2965 effluent small

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

The company was sentenced in the Hastings District Court today by Judge Melinda Dickey, after a prosecution taken by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council for breaching the Resource Management Act 1991.

Maxwell Farms Ltd pleaded guilty to allowing 80,000 litres of effluent to enter the Mangatutu Stream, a tributary of the Tūtaekurī River, on December 23 in 2019. As a result of this incident, a health warning went out advising people not to swim in the river for a week.

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. 

Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and the dairy industry have adopted the shared goal of 100% environmental compliance with all resource consents.

Regional Council Group Manager Policy and Regulation, Katrina Brunton, says the Hawke’s Bay community has sent strong signals to the Regional Council that it values clean water.

“To uphold these values, we are committed to enforcing the rules to protect the health of our environment and our community. The penalties applied by the court should deter this type of offending.”

Mrs Brunton says the Regional Council is particularly disappointed in this incident, where the effluent was ultimately discharged into the Tūtaekurī River.

“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.”

Mrs Brunton says the organic processes that breaks down dairy effluent require a lot of oxygen, which can significantly reduce the ability of the water to support aquatic life.

“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.”

If any member of the public has information regarding unauthorised discharges to land, air or water they should contact the Council’s 24/7 Pollution Hotline on 0800 108 838.

12 March 2021

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