Project Contractor held to account for illegal works
CPB HEB Joint Venture (the JV), the contractor building the Transmission Gully Motorway for Waka Kotahi (NZTA), has been convicted and fined for unconsented earthworks and sediment discharges in Belmont Regional Park. The work occurred over a one kilometre stretch above a tributary of Duck Creek and similar work took place close by above a tributary of Cannons Creek.
Greater Wellington Regional Council (Greater Wellington) laid four charges against the JV for work and discharges that happened between 1 March and 1 June 2019. The JV appeared before Judge Dwyer in the Wellington District Court today; they were convicted on all charges and was fined $70,000 for the works and the discharges.
In passing sentence the Judge commented, in the context of the Transmission Gully project, the culpability of the major contractor was very high. Significant slips and sidecasting occurred; this should have been avoided and speedily remediated. The sentence reflects the potential effects on a vulnerable receiving environment with significant ecological and cultural values; and the need for deterrence and condemnation of offending.
In deciding on the level of fine to impose the Judge listened to submissions from Greater Wellington and the JV on how serious the offending was and what the aggravating and mitigating factors were. Of particular note was the fact that nearly a month after work in the area had started there were still no measures taken to prevent sediment from earthworks on steep slopes entering two streams.
The Judge took in account a history of non-compliance with the consents for the project including three almost identical previous incidents. No discount was given for previous good behaviour and minimal discount was given for the guilty plea given that it took 18 months for it to occur.
Judge Dwyer acknowledged that direct effects on the streams were minor but emphasised that the ultimate receiving environment was the Porirua Harbour, in particular the Pauatahnui Inlet. He stated the Board of Enquiry, who issued the Transmission Gully consents, recognised the potential for impacts from sediment on the inlet. The expectation was that the project would minimise the effects on this environment.
“It is really important to protect our streams from unauthorised sediment discharges”, said Greater Wellington Environmental Regulation Team Leader, James Snowdon, “any sediment which gets into a stream can damage that ecosystem.
“In this case, sediment will ultimately end up in the Pauatahanui Inlet. Before any work starts operators should talk to the regional council about permitted activities and the need for consents.
“The work that led to this prosecution fell far below our expectations of an experienced commercial operator. Whilst this case has taken over two years to get through court - those who don’t want to stick to the rules should take note that we will follow through with our cases and hold offenders to account.”