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A section of the damaged stream. Photo: SUPPLIED/WRC

Farmer’s appeal dismissed

The High Court at Hamilton has dismissed an appeal by a north Waikato farming company who argued that a fine imposed upon them for damaging a stream was “manifestly excessive”.
Gregan Farms Limited and earthworks contractor Steve Barker Limited were both convicted in the Hamilton District Court last October for damaging almost 1.5 kilometres of stream bed in February 2021.

Gregan Farms Limited was subsequently fined $31,500, with the contractor fined $45,000.
Only Gregan appealed the amount of their fine to the High Court. This week Justice Mark Woolford dismissed that appeal.
The maximum fine available under the Resource Management Act for a company convicted of unlawfully excavating a stream bed is $600,000.
The prosecution arose from a complaint by a member of the public to Waikato Regional Council of works being undertaken in a tributary of the Waitakaruru River.
The follow up council inspection discovered extensive damage to the stream for approximately 1390 metres, with large sediment deposits in the water course and significant fish kill. Forty-eight dead eels were located within 50 metres of the illegal works.
Council Regional Compliance Manager Patrick Lynch said, “This simply should not happen. The earthworks contractor in this case has over 40 years’ experience and should be well aware of the protections in place for our streams and the eco-systems they support. Likewise, the farmer should not have engaged the contractor to do the works in the first place.”