Wairarapa farmer fined for taking water in breach of consent
A South Wairarapa farmer has been convicted and fined for taking groundwater from a bore in breach of resource consent conditions, and for breaching an abatement notice requiring him to cease this unauthorised extraction of water.
Greater Wellington laid charges against John Coveney in December 2021, and he was sentenced on 20 June 2023 with a fine imposed on him of $26,000 by the Environment Court at Masterton.
Judge Prudence Steven KC refused an application from Mr Coveney for a discharge without conviction after he earlier pleaded guilty to the charges.
In passing the sentence, the Judge commented that Mr Coveney had a “poor attitude” towards the consent conditions demonstrated by a history of non-compliance.
The offending occurred over a period between 1 January 2021 and 31 March 2021 at a block of land in Pirinoa, South Wairarapa that Mr Coveney owns and has operated since 1992 as a dairy farm. The property is situated near the Tūranganui River.
Mr Coveney has a resource consent to take water from a bore located on his property, subject to conditions designed to ensure sustainable management and use of that waterbody and to manage environmental effects.
Greater Wellington regularly monitors compliance with resource consents and during a check in August 2020, it was discovered that Mr Coveney had breached conditions by taking too much water during a ‘low flow’ restricted take period.
An abatement notice was served on Mr Coveney to cease the unauthorised taking of water. He was also provided guidance and advice on how to achieve compliance.
Mr Coveney continued the non-compliant activities despite the abatement notice, and charges were subsequently laid.
Greater Wellington Environment Chair Penny Gaylor said taking water outside consented hours impacts the availability of water to other users and the environment.
“In this case, taking water during low summer flow conditions would have immediately reduced flow in the Tūranganui River and potentially impacted a nearby critically endangered podocarp forest with remnants of tawa and titoki,” Cr Gaylor said.
“Freshwater is a precious resource that must be protected for the benefit of all users as well as the environment.”
Greater Wellington Environment Group Manager Lian Butcher said Greater Wellington takes no pleasure in pursuing convictions and only does so as a last resort.
“Mr Coveney has a history non-compliance since 2012 for which other abatement and infringement notices were issued by the regional council,” Ms Butcher said.
“When non-compliance continued, there were very few options left available to us other than court action.”
Greater Wellington controls the taking and use of freshwater in accordance with the Proposed Natural Resources Plan.
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