The illegal open-air burning of toxic demolition materials from Northland College has seen two parties receive steep fines.
Auckland-based Yakka Demolition and Kaikohe farmer Jason Robert Bill were sentenced to more than $50,000 in fines and costs for their roles in disposing of the materials more than two years ago.
Material including plywood, medium density fibreboard, treated timber, painted wood, chipboard, plastic, metals and coated wire were dumped and went up in smoke on Bill's land in April 2016 and August 2017.
Both parties pleaded guilty to two charges each laid by the Northland Regional Council in the Environmental Court and were sentenced recently.
In the sentencing notes, Judge JA Smith said Yakka's charges related to burning demolition waste and the discharge of waste containing contaminants. Bill was charged with ''permitting contravention, permitting a discharge of contaminants from open burning'' in August 2017, and permitting the discharge of contaminants on to land.
Bill claimed to have been approached about using his land for the disposal of untreated timber, and Judge Smith said there was no evidence he was aware of the actual contents of the waste.
But while his claim appeared to be accepted by the prosecution, Bill had a duty to ensure the demolition company stuck to a verbal agreement, the judge said.
Tyres were also in the toxic burn-up but the judge accepted an unknown third party had dumped them at the site.
There was no suggestion of significant environmental effects long-term "but clearly the discharge of fumes from burning plastics, paint and the like can release toxic fumes into the environment".
Commenting on Bill's part, Judge Smith expressed surprise at the lack of formal contracts, given that "accounts appear to have been rendered in the order of $30,000 plus GST".
Although about 500 cubic metres of material – and a significant sum of money –were involved, Bill's culpability was at the ''lowest'' end. The judge fined him $11,800 on the discharge to land offence and $2600 on the air discharge, with courts costs of $130 on each charge.
In Yakka's case, Judge Smith said the company put waste materials on the fire knowing they would release noxious substances into the air, conduct that was of "moderate seriousness, a case of wilful blindness rather than deliberate intention to breach the Regional Rules".
The company had subsequently fully co-operated with the NRC.
Yakka was fined $24,000 for the land discharge and $12,000 for the air discharge, with court costs of $130 and a solicitor's fee of $113.
Judge Smith directed that 90 per cent of all fines be paid to the NRC.
Colin Dall, NRC Group Manager - Regulatory Services, said the case was a good reminder to landowners that they had responsibility to ensure activities they allowed on their property were conducted lawfully. Landowners should also be wary of relying on verbal agreements, particularly where an activity may require resource consent, Dall said.