Waikato farming company, Nagra Farms Limited, and its director, Naginder Singh, have received five convictions each and been fined a total of $116,000 for unlawfully discharging dairy effluent into the environment.
At the time of the offending, in late 2017 and early 2018, Nagra Farms Ltd owned five Fonterra supply farms at Gordonton, near Hamilton. Offending was identified on two of the farms by Waikato Regional Council staff inspecting the farm's effluent systems for compliance with environmental regulations.
A farm manager on one of the farms, Nikolai van den Einden, was also convicted for breaches of the Resource Management Act. He was sentenced to 12 months' supervision and ordered to attend a dairy effluent management course.
The convictions and penalties were imposed by Judge Melanie Harland in the Hamilton District Court last week.
Regional council inspections found that the effluent management systems on the farm were inadequate and unable to safely contain the amount of effluent being produced on the farms.
Small and unsealed storage facilities were overflowing and there were large volumes of effluent ponded on paddocks from over irrigation. All of these discharges posed a significant risk of contaminating groundwater.
"This is a large fine and sends a very clear message," said council investigations manager, Patrick Lynch.
"A fine of $116,000, as well as the convictions for the company and director, has to be seen as a sign the court is losing patience with those remaining farmers who, quite simply, are causing environmental harm.
"In this case, the company owned five dairy farms and should have been setting an example as to how to do things correctly and sustainably," said Patrick.
"I am sure the rest of the dairy industry, as well as the wider community, who are working hard to improve the environment, are extremely disappointed with the farmer in this case, as he will be seen to be undoing the good work of so many."