A Waikato dairy processing company has been convicted and fined $137,500 for discharging objectionable odour that has caused ‘severe’ impacts on a local community and ordered to place $120,000 in trust for the community as reparation for those impacts.
The fine and reparation were released yesterday by Hamilton District Court Judge Jeff Smith at the conclusion of the fifth environmental prosecution against Open Country Dairy Limited.
Between 3 January and 23 February last year, Waikato Regional Council received 109 complaints from 43 separate local businesses and residents of Waharoa, near Matamata. Judge Smith considered the impacts of the odour as “severe, particularly for those people who may have had respiratory conditions already”.
Victims described the odour as nauseating, in some cases triggering retching and vomiting and causing some to seek medical attention. Some residents reported having to keep their homes and workplaces closed, and at the hottest time of the year. Others reported having to clean clothing and furnishings that the odour had permeated. Complainants also reported associated effects, such as feeling isolated because they felt they could not go outside, and economic impacts from fewer customers visiting local shops.
During the prosecution, the company suggested a trust be established for the community; however, the court set the amount of $120,000 that is to be paid into it. The trustees comprise community members and a representative from Waikato Regional Council. The purposes of the trust include assisting and promoting projects and facilities in the community, supporting people and organisations who operate to relieve poverty or advance education, and payment of actual out-of-pocket expenses for community members from the offending.
In passing sentence, Judge Smith described aspects of the company’s infrastructure as “woefully inadequate” and that “the actions of the company were reckless and bordering on deliberate”.
“The community has been made to put up with some pretty terrible experiences over the last decade or so from the operation of this company,” said council regional compliance manager Patrick Lynch. “As a result, this council has had to put a disproportionate amount of regulatory resources into trying to get positive behaviour change from this company.”
“We are aware that there has been significant investment in infrastructure on the site which does bode well for the future and in particular for the community. We sincerely hope this is the last time there are any avoidable environmental incidents that require this company to be brought before the courts,” Mr Lynch said.
The five Resource Management Act prosecutions taken by Waikato Regional Council against this company concluded in:
October 2007: Open Country Cheese Company Ltd – convicted on 14 charges and fined $55,000 for objectionable odour.
July 2009: Open Country Cheese Company Ltd – convicted on 1 charge and fined $11,050 for unlawful discharge of contaminant into the environment.
August 2014: Open Country Dairy Ltd – convicted on 1 charge and fined $35,625 for objectionable odour.
October 2019: Open Country Dairy Ltd – convicted on 3 charges and fined $221,250 for objectionable odour and unlawful discharge of contaminant to the environment and also issued an Enforcement Order to cease objectionable odour.
September 2020: Open Country Dairy Ltd – convicted on 1 charge and fined $137,500 for objectionable odour and reparation of $120,000 to the community.
MUSICIANS & MUSIC PUBLISHERS: By providing Gold FM with your music you agree that Gold FM is not breaching any copyright law in regard to music you send us or allow to be supplied to Gold FM on your behalf.