23 Jul 2009

Farm found guilty of effluent discharge breaches

3:34 pm on 23 July 2009

One of New Zealand's biggest dairy farming operations has been found guilty of 34 charges of illegally discharging effluent.

The case is the latest in a string of convictions for Reporoa-based Hillside Farms, owned by brothers Allan and Frank Crafar, who also own a number of other dairy farms across the central North Island.

In his judgement, Judge Newhook described a "systematic failure" of the farm's effluent system.

Contributing to this, he said, were factors including the excessive number of cows being milked, a lack of proper maintenance of the existing water supply system, failure to take care over the volumes and thickness of effluent being directed to travelling irrigators, and a sharemilker who was not maintaining the system properly.

Waikato's Regional Council pleaded with Fonterra to stop accepting milk from Hillside Farms after breaches last year, but the co-operative refused.

Fonterra's general manager of sustainable production, John Hutchings, says the company will now have further discussion with the Crafers, will read the court's decision with care and may take further action.

Under the supply contract it is possible for Fonterra to deduct payout, provide further advice and, under extreme circumstances where no remedy is made, to not pick up the milk.

Mr Hutchings says the farm has already put in place a sophisticated effluent management system.