Fish and Game New Zealand say farmers will think twice about their environmental practice after a Canterbury company was fined $90,000 for allowing farm waste to run into Lake Ellesmere.
The fine is a record for the region and is more than double the amount of previous fines imposed for the illegal discharge of effluent.
Pollution by White Gold Ltd was reported by members of the public in 2010 who saw effluent flowing into drains that feed into Lake Ellesmere.
The company discharged 45,000 litres of diluted dairy effluent over three days in 2010. The effluent flowed into drains that feed into the lake.
The farm manager had already been fined $20,000 and sentenced to 260 hours community service for his involvement.
North Canterbury Fish and Game regional manager Rodd Cullinane says Lake Ellesmere is not fit for swimming or fishing in its current state.
He says water in streams flowing into the lake is the colour of yellow custard. "A fish wouldn't survive in it for five minutes," he says.
Mr Cullinane says no fine will fix the problem, but the penalty is a good start and will send a clear signal to those who are polluting.
Canterbury Regional Council says of the almost 1000 dairy farms in Canterbury, about a third were found last year to be failing to comply with effluent disposal regulations.