Tuesday, 11 May 2021 13:55

Mega farmer pinged for effluent breaches

Written by  Staff Reporters
Waikato Regional Council officer noting scale of overflow of effluent from feed pad on a farm at Oruanui, north of Taupo. Waikato Regional Council officer noting scale of overflow of effluent from feed pad on a farm at Oruanui, north of Taupo.

Large farm operations and professional spreading companies should be setting examples of best practice, says Waikato Regional Council regional compliance manager Patrick Lynch.

He made the comments after a Taupō farming operation, a company director and an effluent spreading company were convicted and fined a total of $194,250 for unlawfullly discharging animal effluent into the environment from three large dairy farming operations.

"We look to larger farm operations and professional spreading companies to lead the industry and set examples of best practise," says Lynch.

"Clearly this is not the case here. It is fair to say that both the regulator and the wider dairy industry are very disappointed with the breaches uncovered across this substantial farming enterprise."

The sentence was imposed recently by Judge Jeff Smith in Tokoroa District Court and follows the repeated unlawful discharge of effluent between November 2019 and March 2020.

Gardon Limited ran an 1150 cow dairy operation at Oruanui, north of Taupō that employed a number of staff. However, the farm was managed by company director Gerard Logan Donald.

A monitoring inspection carried out by council staff in November 2019 found an effluent irrigation hydrant had been discharging dairy shed effluent over a prolonged period of time which was ponding near the hydrant. As well, a travelling irrigator operating earlier the same day had been over-irrigating effluent onto already wet soils, resulting in further ponding of effluent in breach of Waikato Regional Plan rules.

An abatement notice was issued to the company requiring it to cease any further unlawful discharges of effluent. At a follow up inspection by council staff on 2 March 2020, a buried pipe carrying dairy shed effluent to a sump was found to have had an inspection hole cut in it. This had not been resealed, resulting in the pipe discharging effluent over a prolonged period of time, causing effluent ponding in a paddock below the pipe, again in breach of Waikato Regional Plan rules and in contravention of the abatement notice.

The company was convicted of two charges of unlawfully discharging a contaminant into the environment and a further charge of contravening an abatement notice and was fined a total of $101,250.

Donald is also a director and shareholder of another company which owns two adjacent dairy farms. He was employed through his company, Gardon Limited, as the general manager responsible for the overall management of these two farms.

Council staff inspected the first of these farms, which milks around 1,750 cows, on 7 November 2019 and found the unlined effluent storage pond designed to take effluent from the feed pad was overflowing, with effluent flowing down through a stormwater retention pond into a sink hole in the ground. A follow up inspection on 21 November 2019 found that effluent was still flowing into the sink hole, despite directions from council staff to clean the effluent away and prevent further discharges.

Donald was convicted on a charge of unlawfully discharging a contaminant into the environment and fined $35,000.

Also on 26 November 2019, contracting company The Effluent Pumping Systems Limited (EPSL) was at this farm pumping out one of the farm effluent storage ponds using a large portable pump and tractor mounted irrigator. Council staff found that EPSL staff had over-applied effluent over a large area causing significant ponding and runoff of effluent. EPSL was convicted of one charge of unlawfully discharging a contaminant into the environment and fined $30,000.

Council staff also inspected the second Gardon farm, which milked 1,600 cows, on 21 November 2019. They found the effluent sumps at two stock underpasses under State Highway 1 and Tram Road were overflowing into unsealed catchpits, in breach of Waikato Regional Plan rules.

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