Polluters hit with $1 million plus fines

Courts issues fines to the value of almost $1.2 million as penalties for pollution inside Waikato Regional Council boundaries during 2020.

The council too 21 environmental prosecutions resulting in 42 convictions against 23 polluters.

Regional compliance manager Patrick Lynch said there was a balance to be struck “and we have to ensure people also operate within environmental limits”.

“Prosecutions for the really serious environmental incidents are important, but only form part of our overall compliance strategy,” he said.

“A large part of daily business for our council is to enable the community and businesses to utilise and interact with natural and physical resources – like using water from the Waikato River. But using those resources comes with obligations.

He said there were more than 11,400 resource consents across about 5000 sites in the Waikato and with 62 per cent of those monitored were compliant last year.

“Non-compliance ranges in its seriousness, and for those found to be non-compliant a variety of actions will have been taken, including education. Sometimes, more than one action will be taken if initial directions are not heeded.”

Taupō constituency councillor and Environmental Performance Committee chair Kathy White was concerned about the seemingly slow rate of behaviour change in some sectors.

“We have a fantastic region, and we need to enjoy it sustainably and safely. But clearly there is still a way to go for some in our community to realise this,” Cr White said.

Over the last year in the regional council area:
• 134 abatement notices, 71 infringement notices, 6 enforcement orders and 305 formal warnings were issued
• 820 of the region’s 4100-plus dairy farms were physically inspected
• more than 1700 environmental incidents reported by the public were responded to,  including 570 in person.

Council maritime officers talked to more than 2500 people on coastal and inland waterways over the 2019/20 reporting period.

They recorded 86 infringements and issued 34 formal and 72 verbal warnings.

“It is essential the community can rely on us to respond and take responsibility as the environmental and maritime safety regulator, and to encourage positive behaviour change through various enforcement tools if needed,” Mr Lynch said.

For more information go to waikatoregion.govt.nz/investigation-and-enforcement.

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