Media release

Dairy company sentenced for effluent discharge

Friday 2 August 2019

On 11 July 2019, Greg Cowley Limited was sentenced in the District Court on one charge of discharging dairy farm effluent onto land in circumstances where it might enter water. The charge was brought by the Otago Regional Council (ORC).

The sentencing followed an incident in April 2018 in which equipment failure led to effluent entering the Pomahaka river from a tributary on a Balclutha dairy farm.

Greg Cowley Limited earlier pleaded guilty to the charge, and the district court in sentencing judged the pollution to fall within the ‘moderately serious’ band of offending, meaning it was an unintentional but careless discharge, with little to moderate adverse effect on the environment.

ORC Acting General Manager Regulatory Peter Winder said the prosecution was a good result for the environment.

“The Pomahaka is an important and sensitive Otago ecosystem, and there is real risk to its health from the cumulative effect of unlawful effluent discharges.

“As the judge noted during sentencing, prosecution and fining is intended to have a deterrent aspect. It’s important that people recognise the risks to the environment of effluent discharge, and that ORC are prepared to take serious enforcement actions when our water plan rules are breached.”

The enforcement action followed an ORC inspection on 20 April 2018.

During the inspection, it was found that an irrigator on the Balclutha farm, which was intended to irrigate dairy effluent onto land, had failed and gone unchecked for six hours, leading to ponded effluent covering the majority of a 2200 square metre paddock.

The effluent flowed over land into a tributary to the Pomahaka River, where green discharge could be seen entering the water. Visible effluent discharge into the tributary and the Pomahaka River extended over a period of about 1.7 kilometres, affecting the clarity of the river and its tributary.

Greg Cowley Limited was fined $39,000 for the offence, and the judge cited its immediate co-operation and prompt guilty plea in setting the penalty.