A septic tank driver dumped a load of waste into a stream so that he could go home instead.
Kyle Maitai, also known as Kyle Archer, poured between 4000 and 6000 litres of the waste into the Orini Canal; a watercourse home to indigenous fish and a habitat for indigenous birds near Whakatane.
Judge David Kirkpatrick reserved his sentencing decision in the Environment Court today after Maitai earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of discharging contaminants onto land which may result in contaminants entering water.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council prosecutor Adam Hopkinson told the court how Maitai was working for Whakatane Brownfreight on May 17, 2021, and had just picked up two loads of septic waste from Ruatoki.
However, instead of dropping the waste at an authorised facility in Kawerau, Maitai instead stopped his truck and dumped up to 6000 litres of waste from the truck down a bank and into the Orini canal.
Two people had seen Maitai, who now works as a driver for Go Bus, standing next to his truck on an overbridge and the discharge flowing from the truck without a hose attached. Pictures also showed there was no outlet for a hose to be attached.
Hopkinson said the only way waste could be released is by someone releasing the cap and opening the valve with a lever.
He noted it was quite a different version of events Maitai had told probation in his pre-sentence report where he stated he was driving home when he noticed the leak and found that the clamp was loose. To fix it, he tried readjusting it but due to the pressure, the waste came pouring out.
Pictures had proven otherwise, Hopkinson said.
The council urged Judge Kirkpatrick to hand down a sentence of imprisonment as his whanau did not want him to serve home detention at home and he had not proven reliable to adequately complete a community work sentence in the past.
He could also not afford to pay a fine the size of which was normally handed down in the Environment Court.
Hopkinson noted Maitai's alias, Kyle Archer, had accrued 10 breaches of community-based sentences including eight breaches of community work.
"It's eight convictions for failing to comply with a community-based sentence.
"If it was one conviction 10 years ago that's one thing, but eight convictions of failing to comply with a community work sentence and 10 convictions for failing to comply with a community-based sentence it's with respect difficult to comprehend how that level of non-compliance with previous court-imposed sentences can be put to one side."
He said Maitai's offending was unusual with how deliberate it was.
"Normally your honour would be dealing with carelessness, negligence, and systemic failures, but what's unusual is that Mr Maitai has collected these two loads of septic tank waste from properties at Ruatoki and instead of taking them for disposal at the authorised facility at Kawerau has decided to go home and en-route has discharged the 4000-6000 litres from the truck down the bank of the Orini canal and into the canal.
"It's unusual to have a deliberate case of pollution like this."
He said the watercourse provided a migratory pathway for indigenous fish species and was also of cultural significance to local iwi who had used it for rituals, karakia, and baptism.
The 34-year-old had also backed out of a restorative justice conference the day before it was due to take place.
However, Maitai's lawyer Steve Franklin said if his client was jailed it would likely only be for one to three months.
To get a more rehabilitative effect, he said community work would mean Maitai would have to give up one day of his weekend to complete his hours until the sentence was finished.
Or, he suggested the judge hand down a sentence of intensive supervision which could be subject to judicial monitoring. That way he could complete various courses, including Tikanga Māori.
He was at low risk of reoffending and harm to others and was "genuine and open".
"He didn't attempt to shift blame to others.
"Community work would allow him to serve the affected community and would put him back in that environment to make good for the harm he has caused."
Maitai accepted he hadn't appreciated the gravity of his offending "until recently, but he certainly does now".
"He's done a very bad, and stupid and horrible thing, he accepts that ... as serious as it is, it's offending that can be dealt with in the community, and probably should be."