A coastal engineer and an earthworks' contractor could face jail or a fine up to $600,000 after allegedly breaching environment rules by damaging a wetland near an estuary in Northland.
The Northland Regional Council has issued abatement notices to Auckland-based Craig Davis of Davis Coastal Consultants and Mason Contracting of Wellsford for unauthorised work on Webb Rd in Teal Bay late last year.
Davis brought the contractor to the 4ha site surrounding the estuary he leases off the landowner who lives in Tauranga on December 15.
When contacted by the Northern Advocate for comment, Davis said he was talking to the council about work he intended to do before he hung up.
The landowner said he was unaware of Davis' actions. The coastal engineer has a contract to buy the land in question, he said.
Mason Contracting managing director Lance O'Callaghan said he was unaware his company was being hired to do earthworks in breach of the Resource Management Act.
Members of the Teal Bay Ratepayers and Residents' Association contacted NRC after seeing heavy machinery near the estuary.
NRC group manager regulatory services Colin Dall said the council's investigation found that the earthworks had disturbed and damaged a salt marsh and excavated material was put in a place where it could enter water.
"The earthworks were not authorised by a resource consent or any RMA regulations and breached the regional plan rules that potentially permitted them, which means they were also in breach of sections 9, 12 and 15 of the RMA."
Section 9 says that no one is allowed to use land in a way that contravenes national environmental standards without express permission.
Section 12 restricts on the use of coastal marine area and Section 15 sets out rules around discharging contaminants into the environment.
Dall said the person supervising the work was asked to stop.
"After the inspecting officer returned to the office, it was reported to the council that earthworks were again being undertaken in breach of the relevant rules.
"Council staff made follow-up calls to the works supervisor and contractor [who] advised that it would not undertake further earthworks at the site," Dall said.
The council has issued abatement notices to those who did the earthworks, requiring them to stop the work.
Ratepayers' association president Carol Armitage said the earthworks have destroyed the breeding ground of the banded rail and other birds hatching in the "fragile" area.
If the council decided to prosecute the maximum penalties were up to two year's jail or a fine not exceeding $300,000 for a person, or for a company, the maximum fine is $600,000.