Judge dishes out more than $50,000 in fines and urges polluting farmers to 'pull up their socks'

Judge dishes out more than $50,000 in fines and urges polluting farmers to 'pull up their socks'

Two Northland farmers have been fined more than $50,000 for unrelated dairy effluent offences near Kaitaia and Whangarei last year. The offence has even caused one of the farmers, Anthony Joseph Schluter, to stop dairy farming altogether.

Schluter was fined $25,000 for offending on November 2004 at the farm he owns and operates about 14km northeast of Kaitaia.

In sentencing notes recently released, Judge Newhook said Schluter’s offending related to effluent discharges on to land and into an unnamed tributary of the Aurere Stream.

The judge said the regional council had worked with Schluter since 2000 advising him repeatedly that his treatment ponds were below industry-recommended dimensions to adequately treat effluent.

Schluter was issued with five abatement notices and five infringement notices from the council. The judge said he agreed with a submission by the council’s lawyer that the system was very poor, the defendant had been told often to fix it and done nothing, the system had not been up to scratch and Schluter was not keeping an eye on things adequately.

Schluter’s lawyer told the judge his client will now run drystock on the land instead.

In delivering his sentence, the judge said it was of equal – or perhaps greater - importance to deter others “to get them to pull up their socks and avoid this kind of offending”.

On the same day as Schluter was fined, Judge Newhook fined Taranaki man James Dodunsky $26,000 for offences relating to dairy effluent discharges at a farm Dodunsky owns at Maungakaramea, southwest of Whangarei.

JKD Farms had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges laid by the council for offences committed at the 162 hectare farm on August 30 last year. Dodunski is the farm’s sole director and shareholder.

In his sentencing notes for JKD Farms, Judge Newhook said that offending related to discharge of farm dairy effluent from a stormwater bypass pipe and an irrigator on the Maungakaramea farm.

Effluent had been running towards tributaries, which led to a river system that ultimately fed into the Kaipara Harbour.

The judge noted that there had also been repeated warnings from the regional council about the system over a period of about eight years, during which time the council had served one abatement and five infringement notices.

Despite that “the system in place on the land until very recently, really had no margin of safety in it for the level of operations that were being undertaken on the land, particularly in times of high rainfall”.

Judge Newhook noted a farm manager involved at the time of the offending no longer worked for the defendant and couldn’t be found, but said given the low safety margin he had outlined, “it therefore matters not a lot about whether the farm manager took some shortcuts”.

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