Auckland Council has filed six charges under the Resource Management Act against Formosa (NZ) Limited, with the company pleading guilty to all counts.
In a written ruling, Environment Court Judge David Kirkpatrick has sentenced Formosa to pay $86,250. He said that while he does not think that the defendant or its principals intended to discharge waste to the creek, he did find that the problems with the system were not given priority.
“Accordingly, the offending was extremely careless,” he said. “The nature of the discharge made any amount of it a serious matter.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said he was pleased to see the company fined.
“This pollution resulted from repeated acts of negligence and caused serious damage to Auckland’s natural environment,” Goff said.
“The offender was made aware of the problems, but deliberately chose to ignore them. Had they chosen to engage with the council when asked, the problems could have been resolved and further action avoided but, given their indifference, a punitive fine is entirely appropriate.
“I hope this fine will act as a deterrent to those who would choose to pollute Auckland’s waterways, especially given the significant resources we are investing to improve water quality across the region.”
Auckland Council Regulatory Committee Chair Linda Cooper agreed.
“Aucklanders place great value on the natural environment and it’s important that those who breach environmental standards and pollute our waterways are held accountable,” she said.
Formosa was operating a resort complex in Beachlands, which included accommodation, an 18-hole golf course and club facilities, a restaurant and fitness centre.
After previous notices and warnings, council inspections in 2019 found that Formosa’s wastewater treatment system had been neglected and was seriously malfunctioning, discharging untreated, or partially treated, wastewater directly into the environment.
The discharge was having a detrimental effect on the land and on nearby Waikopua Creek.
Local mana whenua, Ngai Tai Ki Tamaki, provided a Cultural Impact Assessment which describes the discharge as a direct insult to their mana. Further, high levels of E-coli in the creek water also posed a potential health risk to people using the stream.
Auckland Council’s Regulatory Compliance Manager Steve Pearce says Formosa knew about the wastewater treatment problems but it consciously ignored several abatement and infringement notices and repeatedly failed to take steps to address the issues.
“This kind of negligent pollution is completely unacceptable, but also completely avoidable.
If the company had acted when we first discussed it with them, the situation could have been remedied. Instead it has let the cost of fixing the problem early lead to what is a bigger financial penalty.
“We will not hesitate to take action against anyone else operating with such careless disregard for the law and the environment.”
Formosa no longer owns the property. The waste system was fixed prior to the sale.