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Illegal dumping earns Auckland man community work

Published: 12 February 2020

A small trucking business operator has been sentenced to 120 hours of community work for illegal dumping in North Auckland.

Mark Fitzgerald pleaded guilty when he appeared in front of Judge Jeff Smith at the Auckland District Court on December 19 in relation to discarding approximately 15 cubic metres of landfill on road reserve land and private land in Arkles Bay, Whangaparaoa.

Auckland Council brought the prosecution against the defendant in November last year, after a witness reported seeing material being tipped out on the side of the road.

“Without someone reporting this incident, it could have sat there for years and made its way into waterways or streams,” Auckland Council's Regulatory Compliance Manager Steve Pearce says.

Fitzgerald says he had sought approval from a property owner in Wade River Road, to discard the fill on his land. However, most of the material ended up on the road reserve adjacent to the intended property.

Subsequently, the materials were tested and were found to have elements of chrysotile (white asbestos) and elevated levels of lead and copper.

With an enforcement starting point of $20,000 and removal cost of $20,000, Judge Smith took in to account the placement of the material and the quantity of it.

“The material was tipped in a place that was not likely to be readily accessible given it falls steeply from the road,” Judge Smith says.

“Nevertheless, it did contain asbestos which is a material that has to be removed and is dangerous to people who might be in contact with it.”

He also took in to account the defendant’s financial situation, which he described as “relatively serious”. 

The court heard Fitzgerald had no source of income, apart from the domestic purposes benefit and therefore had no ability to pay a significant fine.

“This is one of the cases where it is not going to be possible for the council to recover any of its quite reasonable costs in both investigating this matter and restoring the property.”

Fitzgerald was ordered to do 120 hours supervised community work and pay $243 in courts costs and solicitor’s fees.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the sentence demonstrated how seriously the issue of illegal dumping was being taken by the council and the courts.

“Particularly bad in this case was the fact that the material disposed of illegally on public land was found to contain asbestos and metal contamination, which not only presents a risk to public and environmental health but also requires an expensive clean-up process."

"I welcome the fact that a strong community work sentence was imposed and hope that the sentence will be used more often as an appropriate way for those who have damaged the environment to work to restore it and repay their debt to the community,” Mayor Goff says.

Auckland Councillor and Regulatory Committee Chairperson Linda Cooper says its disappointing ratepayers will have to bear the cost of the clean-up.

“A strong message has been sent to the offender that even though he doesn’t have the means to pay he won’t be let off,” she says.

“His penance will be to serve the community he has put in danger under Corrections supervision.”

To report an issue to council call 09 301 0101 (24 hours a day).

To find out where you can dispose of your rubbish visit the Auckland Council website.

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