A farm owned by former Northland Regional Council chairman Bill Shepherd had a 10-year history of non-compliance with farm rules, the Environment Court has heard.
On Friday Shepherd, his company Shepherd Farms, his 50:50 sharemilker Robert Philip and Philip 's company Philip Farms were sentenced in the court for discharging untreated and partially treated wastewater from a broken pipe and a feed pad pond on to land in circumstances which may have resulted in the contaminant entering an unnamed tributary of the Wairau River.
Each admitted three counts of discharging contaminants near water. Shepherd Farms Limited and Philip also admitted failing to abide by an abatement notice from the regional council.
The offences happened in July and August 2019 at Shepherd's 160ha dairy farm in Purua while he was NRC chairman. Philip ran the farm. Shepherd stood for re-election to the NRC in October but missed out.
Environment Court Judge Jeff Smith convicted and discharged Shepherd, but Shepherd Farms was fined $27,200. Philip was fined $3000 and Philip Farms $33,600 for the offences.
Judge Smith said the farm had been issued with a number of notices for non-compliance with dairy farming rules since Philip became involved in 2010. However, the judge said, these did not amount to systemic failures, but rather operational errors.
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Smith said in 2019 effluent was discharged from a broken pipe, and twice from a feed pad pond and stand-off calving pad. All flowed on to land near an unnamed tributary of the Wairua River, with some indication of contaminants entering the water. Effluent from the pipe entered a drain. An abatement notice was issued to remove it, but it ended up being 30-40cm deep in places when the NRC revisited the farm.
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Another of the charges related to scrapings of cow manure illegally dumped on a field.
Judge Smith accepted Shepherd had limited culpability as owner of the farm and, with indications of good character, he decided the former chairman would be convicted and discharged without a fine.
However, the judge said, the conviction and discharge of Shepherd, given his role in the NRC and his longtime standing as a farmer and representative on many community groups and organisation would be punishment in itself.
Shepherd was chairman of the Northland Regional council for six years from 2013. He has also held leadership roles in Federated Farmers, NZ Hockey, Destination Northland and the Northland Chamber of Commerce.