Ignorance, stupidity or a calculated risk?

| February 24, 2009 | 0 Comments

A string of recent incidents where farmers have committed what amounts to environmental vandalism without a resource consent has bemused and disappointed Environment Southland’s compliance staff.

Enforcement action against the farmers and contractors involved is being considered in three of the worst cases, Compliance Manager Mark Hunter said.

A farmer in the Mataura area is alleged to have straightened a stream where it flowed though his paddock by cutting out an estimated 80 metres of meanders, so he could plough and cultivate the land more easily. The stretch of stream had been shortened to about 20 metres, destroying the natural oxbows and increasing the velocity of the water flow, Mr Hunter said.

At Otautau a farmer has been found to have cultivated a large area of wetland on his property, again without having obtained a resource consent to drain the land.

And at Orauea a stream had been dammed illegally to provide water for a new dairy farm that began operating without resource consents from Environment Southland. The Council has since required the dam to be removed, and staff are investigating other possibly non-compliant aspects of the operation.

Because enforcement action is being considered in each case, Mr Hunter said he would not provide further details but cited them as sentinel events that caused the Council concern. “Most farmers are extremely responsible but there are some who appear to simply disregard the rules without any thought of the environmental consequences. You have to wonder whether it’s through ignorance, stupidity or they’re taking a calculated risk.

“What some individuals seem to be forgetting is that works done without a consent may have to be reversed leaving them with no gain and a whole lot of costs.”

Contractors who carry out such work were also leaving themselves open to prosecution, Mr Hunter said. “Contractors should be asking to see the resource consent before they start work, so that they know what conditions have been imposed on any approvals.”

Consents Manager John Engel said that retrospective applications for resource consents could be lodged with the Council but the process can be more difficult.

“Applicants run the risk of their applications being declined, or being approved with conditions that will be more expensive to meet if work has been done prematurely,” Mr Engel said.

The Environment Court has ruled that Councils cannot decline resource consents simply as a way of punishing applicants for not having obtained a consent in the first place but those breaking the law can be prosecuted or face other enforcement action.

Published on Farmnews 24 February 2009

Category: General

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