Auckland Council has won a successful prosecution against developer, DDL Homes Limited, for repeated breaches of conditions of its resource consent, with a Judge saying the company had taken a “head in the sand” approach to compliance.
The seven breaches, which occurred between 19 October 2020 and 5 August 2021, relate to earthworks undertaken without adequate or effective erosion and sediment control and contrary to the approved sediment and erosion control plan and include charges for contravention of an enforcement order issued by the Court.
In the Auckland District Court, the company was fined $60,000 for failing to comply with those conditions while completing a development in Hera Street, Flat Bush.
Auckland Council Team Leader Investigations, David Pawson welcomed the outcome and the seriousness with which the Court treated the breaches.
“We expect developers to meet high standards; the company knew the rules and could have prevented the incidents if they had had adequate processes in place,” he said.
“This was not a one-off breach; council inspections identified offences on 26 different occasions.
“We will continue to enforce companies’ environmental and consent responsibilities to send a clear message that we are serious about violations and will do what we need to prevent future breaches.”
In his judgement, Judge Jeff Smith said he considered the repeated breaches of the enforcement orders to be particularly serious given they were consented and agreed to by the defendants. He noted the adverse effects of sediment discharge on the environment and to water, including the direct impact on waterways and organisms’ living environments.
His Honour considered the final penalty of $60,000 would have a deterrent effect on offending, as the financial circumstances of the company and its directors meant this was not a situation where there was a “shelf company” that could pay the fine while the directors took the profit.
Judge Smith considered the company had taken a ‘head in the sand’ approach when facing financial trouble, putting off compliance with the enforcement order in the hope their financial situation would change, when they should have engaged with council to avoid more serious consequences.
Manager Environmental Monitoring Rob Laulala says council compliance teams continue to focus efforts on preventing sediment entering waterways and holding polluters to account when they fail to protect the environment.
“Our compliance monitoring officers ensure that activities involving earthworks do not have a negative impact on the environment or put people’s health at risk. We continue to do this through site inspections, education, enforcement and working with industry to achieve shared environmental goals.”
In a second case, Judge Melinda Dickey found Opal & Joe Trustees Limited and Reco Construction Limited “highly careless” in the management of their construction site at 15A Hapua Street, Remuera.
Erosion and sediment controls at the site were inadequate, and remained so, even after an abatement notice was issued requiring improvement. As a result, several significant sediment discharge incidents occurred.
Judge Dickey said the large volume of earth moved around the property was barely constrained by the silt fences and was an “accident waiting to happen.”
The judge concluded both defendants could not be unaware of their responsibilities under the Resource Management Act and fined Opal & Jo Trustee Limited $29,250 and Reco Construction $16,250.
Each year council compliance officers, funded through the Water Quality Targeted Rate, visit thousands of sites across the region to ensure appropriate controls are in place to reduce poor practice in the industry. Since the work began, compliance rates have significantly increased from as low as 10% up to around 90%.