Firm fined for burning asbestos

By Sandra Conchie

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Tauranga company director Steven Miller's truck and bobcat. Photo/Supplied.
Tauranga company director Steven Miller's truck and bobcat. Photo/Supplied.

A Tauranga firm and its director have been fined $16,400 for illegally disposing of demolition waste, including burning cladding containing asbestos.

Contour Ltd and director Steven Mark Miller were sentenced in the Tauranga District Court yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to two offences under the Resource Management Act.

The defendants admitted illegally disposing asbestos, treated timber and plastic.

This included openly burning cladding containing asbestos at Miller's property on Waikaraka Drive in Te Puna, which is also the headquarters of Contour Ltd. Exposure to asbestos has been found to cause lung cancer.

The offences happened between January 21 and 31 this year. Miller is one of the two directors of Contour, which offers landscaping services, demolition and rubbish removal services.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Council prosecution was launched after Miller demolished a workshop, shed, small garage and 13m-long fence at a Bellevue property for a client.

The client told Miller during the initial inspection some of the garage cladding was fibrolite and there was a risk it contained asbestos.

Miller took three truckloads of demolition waste, including cladding and treated timber, to his property, where some of it was piled up and burned.

The regional council received a complaint about the illegal disposal on January 29.

A council officer visited Miller's property the next day and found a pile of waste containing polystyrene, treated timber, electrical wire, plastic, cement board, laserlite sheeting, greenwaste and tyres.

Some of the waste had been burned and a sample of ash contained asbestos.

The council's lawyer, Adam Hopkinson, said it was the first of three similar prosecutions before the Tauranga District Court this year and was part of a growing trend across the country.

The defendants' lawyer, Ned Burke, said his clients did not usually carry out asbestos disposal work.

Miller had naively agreed to help out a valued client, and did not intend doing any more similar demolition work in future, he said.

Judge Robert Wolff said Miller's quote for the job was almost half that of another contractor. "The release of toxins into the air by taking shortcuts to turn a dollar cannot be tolerated.

"The over-riding sentence must be sufficient to send a deterrent message to other small-time operators that the release of dangerous and harmful toxins into the environment by taking shortcuts won't be permitted by the courts," the judge said.

Ninety-per cent of the fine must be paid to the regional council.

Miller declined to comment after the sentencing.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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