Hamilton City Council has been ordered to pay $37,500 towards a project to clean up the Waikato River as reparation for leaking thousands of litres of sewage into the river last year.
The city council was ordered at Hamilton District Court to put the funds into a separate account which will be used to carry out a five-year project to restore the land down-stream from the Pukete Wastewater Treatment plant, where it spilled 90,000 litres of partially treated human sewage in July 2011.
Judge Melanie Harland today agreed to the plan prepared by the two councils and Waikato-Tainui Raupatu to fence and plant along the river, between the treatment plant and the Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia, from next spring.
The restorative justice approach was supported because imposing a fine would be like "Peter paying Paul". The project cost was similar to the fine the judge had earlier indicated.
Judge Harland described the event as "unfortunate" and was satisfied there would be public accountability by the city council ring-fencing the money and promising to provide regular updates of the project on its website.
The sentencing marked the end of a one-year court battle between Hamilton City Council and the Waikato Regional Council who laid charges against the territorial authority in January. The regional council did not seek costs of $40,000.
The spill was blamed on staff negligence and an overflow pipe being blocked by rags, hair and other inorganic waste. The sludge took two days to flush out into the sea and there had been warnings to staff about a problem with the plant prior to the spill.
In July, the judge indicated the city council's suggestion the fine should be between $5000 and $15000 was too low and delayed the sentencing until December for the restorative justice option to be explored.
Hamilton City Council was ordered to pay court costs of $132.89 and was convicted and discharged.