Farmers who find the going tough should seek help early to avoid getting into trouble with the law, the Rural Support Trust says.

The advice follows a $28,500 fine slapped on Northland dairy farm manager Barry Ian McAuley for effluent discharges that made their way through various farm drains and eventually into the Waipu River.

Three charges he faced related to breach of abatement notices and three for discharges which occurred on two separate occasions last year.

McAuley pleaded guilty to all charges in the Whangārei District Court.

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The starting point for the fine was $110,000 but the court reduced the amount substantially given his financial situation, guilty plea, and remorse.

Judge Jeff Smith said McAuley may have been under pressure and perhaps tried to soldier on alone with help from his son and found himself in a difficult situation.

"There are in fact organisations that seek to assist farmers in this way and I would commend them to anyone who find themselves in a similar position."

Northland Rural Support Trust co-ordinator Julie Jonker agreed with the judge, saying support was available not just for farmers but anyone involved in primary production.

"Some people don't come forward because they are concerned about privacy matters but we assure them that our help is completely confidential, non-judgmental and apolitical.

"Sometime people just don't know how or where to go for help and if we get involved early, we can get some really good results," she said.

Jonker said with farmers being proud, multi-skilled and independent, it was sometimes difficult to ask for outside help.

A split irrigator hose that takes the effluent from the sump to the irrigator. Photo/Supplied
A split irrigator hose that takes the effluent from the sump to the irrigator. Photo/Supplied

This was not the first time McAuley had come to the attention of the Northland Regional Council which brought the proceedings against him.

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Since 2008, NRC has issued 14 infringement and eight abatement notices to him in relation to poor effluent management.

"The levels of non-compliance are such that this must be described as one of the more serious cases of dirty dairying and significant improvements need to be made," Judge Smith said.

He agreed with NRC that McAuley's actions were anything less than wilful blindness, given the number of infringement and abatement notices in the past.

"I hope I do not have to see you again for a further charge because the leniency he court has shown on this occasion is unlikely to be extended a further time," Judge Smith said.

He ordered that 90 per cent of the fine be payable to NRC.