3 Aug 2015

Fonterra fined $192k over buttermilk stink

4:54 pm on 3 August 2015

Fonterra has been fined $192,000 for its role in the Eltham buttermilk stink scandal.

Fonterra building

The Fonterra headquarters on Princes St in central Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The stench caused by discharging millions of litres of buttermilk at Eltham's wastewater plant in October 2013 plagued the town for several months and many residents complained about its detrimental effects on their health.

Last month Fonterra was found guilty of a representative charge of discharging odorous compounds, brought by the Taranaki Regional Council under the Resource Management Act.

The company appeared for sentencing in the Environment Court at New Plymouth this morning.

Judge Dwyer said the seriousness of the offending, the level of culpability and Fonterra's ability to pay influenced his decision.

Appearing for the co-operative, Jason Sanford apologised to the Eltham community and promised a similar incident would never happen again.

The fine will be paid to the regional council, to be used for an environmental project near Eltham.

The South Taranaki District Council was fined $115,000 last year for its role in the incident.

Civil action still possible over stink

Some residents have said they are still considering civil action over the buttermilk stink,

Alex Ballentyne, who was dumped by councillors as South Taranaki's deputy mayor over his protests about the smell, said residents had not been compensated for two years' hardship.

He said the Environment Court found enough evidence of negligence to warrant residents pursuing compensation through the civil courts.

Mr Ballentyne said, despite the judge saying part of the fine dished out today should be spent on an environmental project in Eltham, he had little confidence it would be.

"We just spoke to one of the regional council officers who said, 'if there's anything left over' - and they've already spent hundreds of thousands of dollars - so it's highly unlikely that there will be anything left over. So, once again, it's the victims who will pay everything."

He said the Taranaki Regional Council had not passed on any of last year's fine.