Kim Fulton is a NZME. News Service regional reporter

No convictions for pollution in Bay

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Chris Perley says the current method of regulation and fines wasn't working.
Chris Perley says the current method of regulation and fines wasn't working.

No one was convicted for environmental pollution in Hawke's Bay last year.

There were two prosecutions for environmental pollution in Hawke's Bay courts last financial year, according to Ministry of Justice figures. Both were for water pollution offences and neither resulted in a conviction.

There have been no more than two prosecutions a year in Hawke's Bay for the past five years.

A Ministry for the Environment spokesperson said enforcement of the Resource Management Act was the responsibility of local authorities. Prosecution was only one of a number of formal enforcement options and normally a last resort. Other options included abatement notices and enforcement orders, letters and verbal warnings.

Chris Perley - who has an extensive background in land use and was a Green Party candidate for Tukituki in 2014 - said the current method of regulation and fines wasn't working.

He said it was too hard to nail down pollution to a person, factory or farm.

He thought communities should work together to meet targets for streams.

"Building an ethic around water quality is one of the most important steps ... "

The prosecution model had huge problems, he said.

"More regulation and more work within that model isn't necessarily going to solve it, so I think it's time to start looking at different models."

Mahia environmentalist Kathleen Mato believed people were overall becoming more aware of the effects of pollution.

Many people were taking steps to clean up the area and giving children hands-on experience with water testing, planting trees and carrying out surveys. Ms Mato was working with schools in the area on those sorts of activities.

She said children were keen to learn and also encouraged parents to have good environmental practices.

However, she believed some larger companies weren't trying to improve their practices and needed further education.

Nationally, the number of environmental pollution prosecutions has more than halved over the past five years.

There were 555 prosecutions in the 2010 to 2011 financial year and 234 last financial year. Last year, 38 per cent of cases resulted in convictions compared with 43 per cent in the 2010 to 2011 financial year.

University of Auckland Associate Professor Kenneth Palmer said he wasn't surprised the number of prosecutions had dropped.

Dr Palmer's teaching and research interests include environmental law, resource management law, and local government law. He agreed people were becoming better educated about their environmental responsibilities.

Farmers had proper effluent treatment measures, regional councils were making sure farms were complying with the rules and people weren't polluting the way they used to.

Enforcement around the transportation of hazardous substances was also stricter.

"So overall, better standards, better education, safer practices. So that's good news that people are getting the message and are now not trying to get away with things."

Dr Palmer said he didn't have concerns over the rate of conviction as identifying offenders could be an issue in pollution cases. There were also defences if somebody did cause pollution and there was nothing to stop somebody receiving a summons going to the council and trying to work out a compromise.

Dr Palmer said in many areas where there had been no prosecutions it was likely the level of enforcement was good, breaches weren't particularly serious and nothing justified the substantial cost of a prosecution and delay in getting a hearing.NZME

- Hawkes Bay Today

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