A_HBT14314803.JPG. BREACH: A charge has been laid against Te Mata Mushrooms relating to unlawful discharge. PHOTO/FILE. By Victoria White.
Te Mata Mushrooms is being prosecuted again for allegedly breaching its resource consent - this time, for discharging a contaminant in a way which could have entered water.
In November the Hawke's Bay Regional Council laid one charge against the Havelock North company for unlawful discharge, carrying a maximum penalty of a fine of $600,000.
The council alleges this occurred between July 18 and 19. It was alleged Te Mata Mushrooms "discharged a contaminant, namely wastewater from a mushroom production facility on to land in circumstances where it may result in the contaminant entering water", HBRC's Team Leader Pollution Response and Enforcement Mike Alebardi said.
Such a discharge was not permitted by a resource consent, a rule in an operative plan, or by the Resource Management Act.
A court hearing was scheduled for earlier this week at the Environment Court at Hastings District Court. This was adjourned with a new hearing set down for early March 2018.
Yesterday Te Mata Mushrooms co-owner Michael Whittaker said he did not want to talk about the charge, as it was better discussed in court.
"There's a time and place for it to be litigated.
"We've got our views on it and I guess we're just disappointed to be having to battle that at the same time as going through a fairly detailed consent process."
This consent process is a result of a 2015 prosecution brought by the regional council, when charges were laid against the company for multiple alleged breaches of its resource consent, including discharging "offensive and objectionable odour" beyond its property.
Last year the Environment Court fined it $15,000 and issued an enforcement order for a new resource consent, which would include conditions addressing odour issues.
These odour issues have led to a battle between the company and nearby Havelock North residents, after the urban spread reached the rural area where Te Mata Mushrooms has operated for nearly 50 years.
However, the details of this latest charge have riled residents in light of the 2016 Havelock North water contamination.
At the time fingers were pointed at the company, given its proximity to the Brookvale Bores which were the source of the gastro outbreak that left 5500 people ill. The Government Inquiry into the contamination found there was no link between the company and the August outbreak.
Local resident John Scott was concerned this unlawful discharge could have happened with the heightened awareness around water quality.
"It's unbelievable anyone would discharge water into a stream directly above the aquifer. The Hastings District Council is spending all this money on water, and [Te Mata Mushrooms] is doing this," the long-term Havelock North resident said.
"To do that flies in the face of the management of any resource, and looking out for the community."
In response, Mr Whittaker said people needed to realise their company was "probably the most inspected and scrutinised horticultural facility in all of Hawke's Bay, so to think that we would go out and purposely do something unlawful is just ludicrous".
"We have visits from both councils [Hawke's Bay Regional, and Hastings District] almost on a weekly basis, so people can read into that how they will."
Its new resource consent application has been lodged, but cannot be processed until next year.
Since the Environment Court decision, there have been 320 odour complaints lodged with the Hawke's Bay Regional Council against the company - with 51 since November.
Earlier this week the council announced it would suspend taking enforcement action against Te Mata Mushrooms, as there was nothing practical the company could do to resolve odour issues until the consenting process was complete.