Thursday, February 25, 2021

A failure of enforcement

Yesterday, Silver Fern Farms was fined $337,000 over a potentially lethal ammonia leak. Today RNZ reports that they've subcontracted some of their waste business to Whanganui's Tasman Tanning, which has an appalling environmental record:

Tasman Tanning's plant in Whanganui was already the country's leader in breaching trade wastewater consents before it took on the new work, which is likely to increase the waste it produces.


An RNZ investigation revealed the Tasman Tanning plant in Whanganui clocked up 570 fat, sulphide and chromium breaches over the past year.

This meant the sludge from the city's wastewater treatment plant was so contaminated with chromium, a toxic heavy metal, it had to be stored instead of being sent to landfill.

Some of the Whanganui breaches resulted in faecal bacteria from the city's wastewater treatment plant entering the ocean.

Which invites the obvious question: how does a company which breaches its resources consents more than once a day even still have them? Why hasn't the Council done something to stop them? While they've complained about an inability to issue fines without going to court, there are mechanisms available: notably, they can issue an abatement notice for violating the consent. Then, when it is breached, prosecute (because breaching an abatement notice is a criminal offence), and start imposing fines that way (councils get to keep fines for RMA breaches if they prosecute). Seek enforcement orders to force mitigation, and when they are breached, seek an order cancelling the consent under s314(1)(e).

Alternatively, if they don't want to go the full way with prosecution, they can issue an abatement notice, then simply start issuing infringement notices. Breaching an abatement notice is an infringement offence, with a $750 fine per offence. And again, the Council gets to keep it. And at over $400,000 a year, you'd hope that would provide an incentive for this polluter to comply (and if not, it establishes a track record of violations to justify cancellation).

A council which doesn't do this when faced with persistent non-compliance are a) chickenshits; and b) ought to be voted out on their arses for not doing their jobs. Because enforcing the law is their job, and if they refuse to do it, they're as bad as the environmental criminals they're corruptly protecting.