Dairy firm cops hefty fine for smell that caused sickness

An investigation found the odour was caused by the failure of a wastewater pond liner. - Photo: Susan Murray

A dairy company has received the largest ever fine imposed under the Resource Management Act in the Waikato region.

Open Country Dairy was ordered to pay $221,250 after an objectionable smell from its Waharoa plant caused residents to vomit and suffer headaches last year.

It was also found to have unlawfully discharged wastewater into a stream causing contamination of the Waitoa River.

The fine was imposed by Judge Melanie Harland after the company was prosecuted at Morrinsville District Court.

Waikato Regional Council had received numerous complaints from Waharoa businesses and residents over two periods in 2018.

They reported an ongoing, persistent and objectionable odour.

This caused residents to keep doors and windows shut and in some cases it caused headaches and vomiting.

An investigation found the odour was caused by the failure of a wastewater pond liner, which also resulted in contamination of the Waitoa River.

Waikato Regional Council investigations and response manager, Patrick Lynch, said the fine would send a very clear message to the company that its operation had to be environmentally sustainable.

Judge Harland described the impact the odour had on residents as profound and serious.

She issued an enforcement order prohibiting further objectionable odour from the site.

The order also required Open Country Dairy to have a Community Communication Plan to keep the community and council informed of any issues at the plant that may result in further objectionable odours.