Your old mate understands the country’s second largest dairy company, Open Country Dairy (OCD), has just had a ‘stink’ month. During October OCD copped a record fine of more than $221,000 for a “vomitus stench being emitted from its Waharoa factory”.
Waikato Regional Council investigations and incident response manager Patrick Lynch says it has the greatest sympathy for the Waharoa community trying to live with the terrible impacts of stench coming from the Open Country Dairy plant.
Last month OCD, NZ’s second largest dairy processor, was fined $221,000 on being convicted for discharging objectionable odour and unlawfully discharging wastewater.
The case was brought against OCD by the council following many complaints from local businesses and residents of Waharoa, near Matamata, through two periods in 2018.
This is the fifth prosecution of the Waharoa plant relating to unlawful discharges into the environment, and the largest fine imposed for any prosecution under the Resource Management Act in Waikato.
Residents reported ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour. They described a range of debilitating effects, eg having to keep doors and windows shut, headaches and vomiting.
The council responded to the complaints and began investigating. In March 2018 the council found the odours arose from the failure of the company’s wastewater pond liner. This resulted in contamination of the Waitoa River.
In her ruling, Judge Melanie Harland said the odour impacts on residents were “profound and, of their kind, serious”.
Judge Harland also issued an enforcement order, which the company agreed to, prohibiting further objectionable odour from the site. The order also requires the company to have a plan to keep the community and council informed of issues at the plant that may result in objectionable odour being discharged.
On top of the fine, OCD also agreed to pay $2000 reparation to each of the 17 residents and businesses affected by the odour.
Justice Harland also noted that at a restorative justice conference OCD also agreed to donate a vehicle to provide security to the community.
“It continues to pay the costs associated with the operation of the vehicle, which amount to some $40,000,” she said.
Lynch says the council investigator has communicated directly with the complainants following the court decision.
“I think it is safe to say they’re just wanting to get on with their lives without unwanted intrusion from this company’s activities,” he told Rural News.
“As ever, we will be vigilant for complaints received from members of the public and respond accordingly.”
OCD's costly stink
• Total fines of $221,250
• $2000 paid as reparation to each of 17 affected residents
• A vehicle provided and maintained by OCD to provide security for the community
• Enforcement order prohibiting company from discharging odour beyond its boundary.