Discharging Contaminants to Waterways

Freddy finds out about his responsibility around handling the discharge of effluent

Pebbles is over at Freddy’s for dinner.  On the television, there is a news item about illegal discharge of effluent into waterways.

“Wow, this issue about effluent discharge is a hot topic at the moment.”   Exclaims Freddy.  “Most farmers work hard to efficiently manage effluent discharge, like myself.”

“That’s right, it is a hot topic, but it is an important issue.” Agrees Pebbles.   “It’s important for farmers to be aware of the requirements around discharges onto land and waterways, and how to comply.”

“Well what are my responsibilities Pebbles?”  Asks Freddy.

“The Resource Management Act prohibits the discharge of any contaminant, such as farm dairy effluent, into streams or waterways without the discharge being expressly permitted in a Regional Plan rule, or a resource consent.  Regional Councils can take a prosecution against any person caught in breach of this.”  Pebbles explains.

“That sounds serious, what are the penalties?”  Asks Freddy.

“An individual who is convicted of an offence under the Resource Management Act is liable to a fine up to $300,000.00, or imprisonment for up to two years.  In the case of any other entity, like a company, the maximum fine is $600,000.00.  If the offence is continuing, a person is also liable to a fine of up to $10,000.00 for every day, or part day the offence continues.  Recent local examples of fines imposed by the Court include a fine of $23,000.00 where, during a routine visit, a council officer noticed effluent discharging from an over flow pipe, and also the dairy shed wash tank and entry/exit race.   In another case, a total fine of $60,000.00 was imposed where there was a continual discharge from a pipe resulting in ponding of effluent on the land.”  Notes Pebbles.

“Ah, well I have nothing to worry about.”  Says Freddy.  “Bam Bam, the new sharemilker is on to everything.  It’s his responsibility to take care of these sorts of things.”

“You need to be careful about that Dad.” Cautions Pebbles.  “Farm owners may be prosecuted and found equally liable for offences that have been caused by their employees including farm managers and shareholders.”

“So that means that even if an illegal discharge was caused by Bam Bam, I could still be held responsible?”  Freddy asks. 

“Yes, although you may have a defence available to you in certain circumstances.”  Explains Pebbles.

“Thanks Pebbles.  I will make a note of keeping a closer eye on what Bam Bam is up to.”  Says Freddy.

“That would be a good idea.  Illegal discharges to waterways are taken seriously, and you don’t want to damage your good reputation.


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Philip McCarthy