The owner of Te Mata Mushrooms has lashed out at Hawke's Bay Regional Council, saying its prosecution over an alleged breach of resource consent conditions amounts to a bid to have the company shut down.
The Havelock North business is facing six charges and a maximum $600,000 in fines after complaints it has failed to contain odours generated by the compost it makes to grow its mushrooms in.
Under its 2012 resource consent, odours from the mushroom farm must not waft over its boundaries but the council says it has received numerous complaints.
It also alleges Te Mata Mushrooms has failed to construct a building to contain its compost-making facilities - another requirement under its resource consent.
The council said last week it was "not in the business of closing companies down" and had "a degree of sympathy for the company given that the number of residential dwellings in the area has increased markedly".
However, it said that did not "remove the company's responsibility to modify how it operates to meet the changing expectations of the community".
But company owner Michael Whittaker said yesterday the council's comments contradicted correspondence he had had from it on the matter.
"HBRC have made it very clear that they will ask for a court order to have us cease composting on site until all composting can be enclosed.
"This would cost the company many millions of dollars and simply be unaffordable.
"It is in fact [technically] impossible to enclose our composting, clearly HBRC are endeavouring to have the business cease operating, costing the region 120 jobs," he said.
Mr Whittaker, who was overseas last week when the council announced the prosecution, said the action raised a wider regional issue of "reverse sensitivity" where newcomers to an area complain about an existing operation.
"All city and district councils must do better at addressing the needs of existing commercial, horticultural and farming uses when allowing residential subdivision to encroach on to rural zones," he said.
"Residential subdivisions do not drive long-term growth in our region, it is businesses like Te Mata Mushrooms and many others that create the jobs and fuel economic growth."
The mushroom farm had been on its Brookvale Rd site since 1967 and in the past few years Hastings District Council had allowed more than 160 houses to be built nearby, Mr Whittaker said.
"We have heard many times that people were not aware of the mushroom farm when they bought their property. Developers, real estate agents and, I believe, council now have an obligation to inform potential purchases of our location."
With the legal action looming it was a "very unsettling and upsetting time" for the company's staff , he said, but he had been heartened by the public support shown towards the mushroom farm.