Pity about the shags, but don’t blame the crew – Sanford says the boat was at fault

May 4, 2012

The activities of Kim Dotcom aren’t the only matter of interest Down Under for American justice officials.

They have our Sanford fishing company in their sights, too, as a consequence of something going awry in American Samoa.

No doubt by now they have been given an account of an environmental mishap that has featured in the news media today – the Stuff report can be found here.

The incident resulted in an estimated four tonnes of oil or something similarly undesirable being spilled into Timaru Harbour, although it had been contained and mostly cleaned up by yesterday afternoon.

And who was to blame?

Actually, it wasn’t a someone. It was a something.
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Fouling of the Manawatu River – a city council gets away with it while farmers are prosecuted

September 20, 2011

Much further upstream you might find the Tui girls - if you're lucky.

Andrew Hoggard – good bloke, by the way – is bang on when he calls for councils to be treated the same as farmers if they breach their resource consents.

He’s the president of Manawatu-Rangitikei Federated Farmers and was commenting on the outrageous revelations that Palmerston North City Council’s sewage treatment plant has failed to comply with conditions for discharging wastewater into the Manawatu River since it opened in 2003.

But the bloody regional council – which would pounce if a farmer had muddied the river – has not bothered to prosecute the city council.

Hoggard at least can now demonstrate that farmers aren’t the only culprits when it comes to polluting the river.

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Judge Fred is the bloke to punish BP over the creation of an unwanted Black Sea

July 28, 2010

Alf won’t bother doing the maths – his mind is sharp but he does not want to blunt it by boggling over the profusion of zeros that is likely to come into the calculation.

Accordingly he will merely muse in a rhetorical way on what would happen if the penalty imposed by a court in Auckland was extended – on a per litre basis – to punish BP for lubricating the Gulf of Mexico.

And for creating another Black Sea (although the TV pix suggests maybe it is another Red Sea).

Alf’s musings were triggered by a report in the Herald saying:

Three companies found guilty of spilling 10,000 litres of petrol have been ordered to pay the heaviest fine imposed in a regional council case in Auckland.

Petrol Alley Services (GAS), URS New Zealand and Brown Bros (NZ) were found guilty in the Auckland District Court over a fuel leak from a petrol station in Line Rd, Glen Innes.

The companies have been ordered to pay a fine of $160,000, as well as court costs of $80,000.

The court has also demanded an investigation of the fuel which remained in the ground, and the companies could be forced to pay a further $200,000 for a clean-up.

But whereas this case involved thousands of litres, US Government estimates tell us more than five million barrels of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico since BP’s undersea leak began in late April, and Alf reckons there are more than a few litres in each of those barrels.

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Eviction orders are discriminatory, true, but bias is great when it favours we older people

May 29, 2010

Alf was tempted, at first blush, to see something ominous in the goings-on near Maketu, where a Maori company has ordered a beachside community to bugger off.

This – surely – will be happening up and down the country if the Government buckles and gives the seabed and foreshore back to the Maori who lay claim to them.

The mollifying element in the Little Waihi evictions is that Pakeha and Maori alike are being given the boot.

Or some of them are. Older ones can stay on.

The Herald reports the matter today –

A community in an idyllic coastal spot has been told it must leave within a year, abandoning baches which have stood on the site for 65 years.

At least 29 homeowners in Little Waihi, to the east of Tauranga near Maketu in the Bay of Plenty, have had their yearly lease terminated by the commercial arm of the Arawa iwi, which owns the land. More than 120 people will be affected.

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A licence to pollute

July 22, 2009

The Greater Wellington Regional Council is sure to haul a dairy farmer or pig farmer into court, if they polluted nearby waterways. But it won’t lift a finger against the Wellington City Council, even though raw sewage is being spilled into Wellington Harbour from the city’s stormwater system.

The harbour is also being polluted with animal faeces, heavy metals, cigarette butts and oil products that are commonly washed into the stormwater system.

Officials admit they are unsure how polluted the harbour has become and plan to step up monitoring.
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Polluter-pays idea wins strong support

March 30, 2009

Farmers should take heed of survey findings which show they are way out of line with public opinion on who should pay for excess greenhouse gas emissions.

The findings aint good for rural folk: the survey found 80% of business people believe polluters should pay.

That’s not the sort of thinking which farmers – many of them, anyway – will want gathering much traction as they press the Government to go easy on them with any emissions trading regime.

More dismaying, the survey found scant support for the idea that large emitters be given much of a break.
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Greens can’t help grouching

March 6, 2009

There’s no satisfying the muesli mob.

Fonterra has announced measures to help its farmer shareholders meet regional council rules for effluent management, a scheme it calls the Effluent Improvement System.

The explicit goal is to cut significant non-compliance by 50 per cent by August 2011.

Fonterra plans to re-direct staff resource to help advise farmers who have been identified as needing support.

More important, when it comes to hitting cockies in the pocket, it is introducing a milk payout deduction system for those who receive infringement notices or are prosecutions for an effluent offence from a regional council.

Not immediately. This will kick in from the 2010/11 season.

A deduction of $1,500 will be incurred for infringement notices and $3,000 for prosecutions.

Farmers who spend that amount, or more, on improving their effluent management system, will be able to offset that sum against their expenses.

Sounds fair enough to Alf.

Some cockies will say it’s a bit bloody tough.

But the Greens want blood.

The party today released a statement in the name of co-leader Russel Norman to say the proposal to withhold “a tiny portion of the milk payout payments” from polluters shows Fonterra is still not serious about promoting responsible farming and cleaning up rivers.

“Fonterra’s proposal is less than a slap on the wrist with a wet bus ticket for polluters, and is an insult to the many farmers who are doing the right thing”, said Green Party Co-Leader Russel Norman.

“The big industrial polluters will ignore it, the environment will wear the cost, and those farmers doing the right thing will continue to have their reputations tarnished by the bad eggs.

Norman regards the fines as insignificant and the target as pathetic – “this is illegal activity, for goodness sake”.

He is howling for a fine per kilogram of milk solids and – with persistent offenders – the cancellation of supply contracts.

The statement says

“A repeat drink-driver loses their license, but Fonterra and the Government allow persistent polluters to continue despoiling our rivers and streams, threatening water supplies and our tourism industry.

“Many of the worst farms are multi-million dollar giant industrial operations for whom $3000 is peanuts. In August 2007, the 4500-cow Taharua Farm in Hawkes Bay was convicted for breaching its effluent resource consents, Dr Norman noted. The operators were found to be running 1500 more cows on their farm than they had consent for. The extra effluent drained into the Mohaka River, which is protected by a Water Conservation Order for its outstanding natural values.

“For Taharua Farm, a $3000 fine would have been less than 0.1% of their $5 million turnover – nothing compared to the additional $1.5million of income they received from the 1500 illegal cows”, Dr Norman said

“However, a fine of even a tiny 20c per kilogram of milk solids produced would have cost Taharua $220,000 – something they could not ignore.”

Fish & Game New Zealand, an outfit persistently haranguing dairy farmers over pollution issues, more reasonably welcomed Fonterra’s measures to lift dairy effluent compliance, but urges a much more robust approach.

There’s plenty of carping, too.

“Setting a goal of reducing serious non-compliance by 50% by August 2011 is the equivalent of saying ‘we accept half of those farms in serious breach of their consents now continuing to pollute New Zealand’s waterways’”, said Bryce Johnson, Chief Executive New Zealand Fish & Game Council.

“Fonterra is explicitly condoning the ongoing flaunting of the law by a proportion of their farmer shareholders. This is not acceptable to most New Zealanders, and a target of 100% compliance with resource consents is surely the only acceptable goal.”

“The dairy industry has been exposed to the requirement for environmentally sustainable agriculture for many years now, and to set a target of 50% improvement over two and half years is smacks of ‘green wash’.”

“The law is the law, and farmers are not exempt from their responsibilities for 100% compliance with resource consents.”

Dunno if Alf has missed something.

He didn’t think it was Fonterrra’s job to prosecute and punish offenders.

He thought that was up to the authorities – and that Fonterra’s penalties are not being proposed as an alternative to prosecutions, but as a complementary measure.

That means a double whammy.