Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Five orchardists fined over water theft

Bay of Plenty Regional Council has prosecuted five orchardists for illegally taking more than 100 million litres of water over the past two kiwifruit seasons.

The Council says all five pleaded guilty to the charges relating to the unlawful takes at their orchard properties.

Regulatory Compliance Manager, Matt Harrex says resource consents provide important protection to the natural environment and across all of these prosecutions the orchardists have ignored this requirement. 

“Clamping down on Illegal water takes has been a been a significant focus for Regional Council for the past ten years,” he said.

“We’ve spent a lot of time working with industry to educate growers that anything above the daily permitted water take requires resource consent. For the most part growers are doing the right thing with over 1,000 resource consents for water takes granted over the last decade.”

Mr Harrex said at least 40m³ of water may be required each day to irrigate one hectare of kiwifruit canopy in the heat of summer – this is more than the permitted daily take of 35m3 per day.

“And orchards are generally a lot bigger than one hectare, so it’s always disappointing to come across those that are aware of the need to apply for resource consent but have made a conscious decision to take the water anyway,” he said.

In a recent sentencing decision, Judge Kirkpatrick said an increasing demand for water in the Bay of Plenty was placing pressure on streams, rivers, springs and groundwater.

“Over-abstraction of groundwater can degrade groundwater quality and reduce water levels in aquifer systems and associated surface waterbodies,” the Judge said.

Last month, orchardist Maniatutu Heights Limited was fined $33,500 for taking almost 8 million litres more than would have been allowed as a permitted activity.

In December last year, producer David Grant Thomas was fined $42,000 for taking approximately 26 million litres; while in November three orchardists – Peter Stewart Holdings Limited ($42,000), Terahu Orchard Limited ($35,000) and Woodland Orchards Limited ($42,000) were fined for taking close to 70 million litres more than would be allowed.

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