Charges laid in relation to dairy farm discharge into Ashburton water

A dairy farmer has been fined $35,000 after discharging a “substantial” amount of sediment-laden water into an Ashburton creek.

Delos Dairies Limited recently pleaded guilty in the Environment Court to discharging sediment-laden water into Langdons Drain, a waterbody in Ashburton that’s home to threatened indigenous fish.

The offending occurred after a channel in an earth bund next to Langdons Drain was cut in two places allowing sediment-laden water from a paddock and farm track to discharge into the creek.

The waterlogged paddock was being intensively winter grazed by dairy cows, and the cutting occurred after a period of heavy rain.

Intensive winter grazing of dairy cows can lead to the soil compacting and effluent soil concentrating on the surface. Rainfall may cause sediment and effluent to flow into water bodies.

Environmental impact on threatened species

Langdons Drain is part of a stockwater network managed by the Ashburton District Council. The drain runs for about 20 kilometers and is fed by spring water that connects to a network of drains around Ashburton.

The spring water in the drain offers a high-quality habitat for aquatic life, including threatened kōura (freshwater crayfish) and kākahi (freshwater mussels). An ecologist who provided a report for the sentencing said that in their opinion, “cutting the bund resulted in a substantial input of sediment”.

The ecologist noted this could have wide-ranging effects on habitat and food availability and could compromise the health of fish, invertebrate and plant communities residing in the drain.

The area is culturally significant as a mahinga kai site for Te Rūnanga o Arowhenua, and they have noted their disappointment and sadness at the harm caused to Langdons Drain.

The wider community is also impacted, as the Ashburton District Council reports it is one of its most valuable creeks in terms of reliability of supply, and ecological and recreational value.

Sentencing results in satisfying outcome

Delos Dairies Limited pleaded guilty to two charges laid under the Resource Management Act 1991.

At the sentencing on 30 September 2020, Environment Court Judge J E Borthwick ordered the offender to pay $35,000, which took into account a discount for good character and the early guilty plea.

Our Chief Operating Officer Nadeine Dommisse said: “We are satisfied at the outcome of the sentencing, and hope it serves as a reminder to all businesses about their responsibility to protect the environment. Ignoring these responsibilities can have devasting and far-reaching impacts on rare species, our community and precious taonga”.