Open Country Dairy was fined a record amount by the Waikato Regional Council after its Waharoa factory discharged an objectionable odour.
Open Country Dairy have been convicted and fined a record $221,250 by the Waikato Regional Council for discharging objectionable odour from its which caused significant impacts on a local community, and also unlawfully discharging wastewater, impacting on a local river.
It is the largest fine imposed for any prosecution taken under the Resource Management Act in the Waikato region.
The case was brought against Open Country Dairy, which is the country’s second largest milk processor following numerous complaints from local businesses and residents of Waharoa, near Matamata, through two periods in 2018.
Residents reported that there had been ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour from the company’s Waharoa factory. They described a range of debilitating effects from having to keep doors and windows shut through to headaches and vomiting.
After an investigation, the Council found in In March 2018 that the odour was connected to the failure of the company’s wastewater pond liner. As a result, contamination of the Waitoa River also occurred.
“This is the fifth prosecution of this company, or its predecessor, relating to unlawful discharges into the environment,” the council’s investigations and incident response manager, Patrick Lynch said.
“We have the greatest sympathy for the Waharoa community who have to try living with the terrible impacts this stench has caused. This large fine sends a very clear message to this company that their operation has to be environmentally sustainable.”
The convictions and fine were imposed last week in the Morrinsville District Court by Judge Melanie Harland, who stated that the odour impacts on residents were “profound and, of their kind, serious”.
Harland also issued an enforcement order, which the company agreed to, prohibiting further objectionable odour from the site. The order also requires the company to have a community communication plan to keep the community and council informed of any issues at the plant that may result in objectionable odour being discharged.