Home' NZ Dairy Farmer : December 2009 Contents 24 The Dairyman DECEMBER 2009
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"Councils are obliged to meet certain stan-
dards of best practice when investigating
these offences including showing of war-
rants of authority, the taking of photographs,
sketch plans and samples and the taking of
written statements from witnesses and any
parties with potential liability."
He said it was normal practice for anyone
who was being interviewed about an offence
for which they may have some liability, to be
cautioned before the statement was taken.
"Farmers may struggle to understand the
need for this process; however the role of the
investigating officer is to gather all of the
information about the offending to allow a
fair and consistent decision to be made about
any consequences that may be appropriate."
The information is gathered in a way that
allows council decision-makers to take what-
ever action is deemed appropriate on the
basis of the facts that led to the offending.
Then the council is obliged to follow the
Guidelines for Prosecuting Agencies put out
by the solicitor-general when making deci-
sions on whether to prosecute.
The council has two sets of tools to use to
resolve breaches of its rules: punitive, which
include formal warnings or infringement
notices like a speeding ticket or prosecution.
The council officer may also use a directive
tool (a letter asking someone to fix some-
thing), an abatement notice (formal direction
from council) and an enforcement order (a
formal direction from the court).
It is an offence not to comply with an
abatement notice or an enforcement order
that may be subject to a further punitive con-
An unusual sentence was handed down
last month to a Pio Pio dairy farmer who
pleaded guilty to breaching the Resource
Management Act after an over-application of
effluent on paddocks polluted a tomo and
tributaries of the Mokau River.
Judge Smith said although it was the very
highest end of carelessness he accepted most
of the offending was the result of inadequate
systems rather than deliberate acts.
The judge ordered that the offender attend
up to six farmer field days, publish a quarter-
page apology in the Waitomo News, and pay
a fine of $3000 plus court costs and solici-
He said the starting point for an appropri-
ate fine was $60,000 but he took into consid-
eration a range of factors including the
farmer's genuine remorse and financially
Rob Dragten said that while the sentence
was unusual, it sent a clear message that the
court was prepared to think "outside the
square" to impose deterrent sentences.
Another recent high profile effluent case
revealed that an entity cannot contract their
way out of their liability. It is not enough to
say: "The sharemilker is responsible for the
shifting of the irrigator", "It's not my
problem", "The owner is responsible for
installing a good system" or "It's not my
fault the sump overflows every time it rains"
-- irrespective of what the sharemilking con-
"Potentially, everyone involved in the
farm may have a degree of liability if the
effluent system is not complying with the
law, and everyone has the responsibility to
do what is in their power to rectify any
offending," Mr Dragten said.
"Our experience in taking these prosecu-
tions is that the degree of blame that may be
attached to any party is dependent of a range
of factors, including things like the
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