Polluting developers pay the price

Publish Date : 09 Dec 2019

Developers in one of Auckland’s most affluent suburbs have been fined $67,800 in the Environment Court for repeatedly washing sediment into the stormwater system that then polluted local streams and waterways.

The builders were working on a property in Spencer Street, Remuera, when they were caught breaching the resource consent conditions requiring proper control of the sediment works on the site.

At one stage a worker was seen sweeping sediment down the footpath into a cesspit.

Mr Cheng Gao, the director of Brother Development Limited, entered guilty pleas to multiple charges of discharging sediment, and two breaches of abatement notices.

Mr Han Sun, the son of the Spencer St home-owner, and site manager Mr Jie Ma pled guilty to two charges relating to the discharge of sediment-laden waters at the property.

Judge Jeff Smith described the offending in his judgment as a “gross violation” of the council’s repeated abatement notices ordering them to stop.

The offending happened over an extended period through July and October 2018.

“Over a period of some four months, sediment-laden waters which were discharged from the site into the street found their way into the public drain and then into the waterways and harbour areas adjacent.

“They clearly contained excessive levels of sediment and were inadequately controlled.”

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says, “We are investing significantly to improve Auckland’s water quality, so it’s absolutely unacceptable for developers to be knowingly and repeatedly polluting our streams and waterways.

“It is important that those responsible have received significant fines as a deterrent. Anyone polluting our environment needs to learn that they will be held accountable for their actions.”

When they learnt of the discharge, council compliance officers visited the site, issued an abatement notice and told Mr Ma and Mr Sun they needed to comply with the conditions of consent and the regional rules including the installation of appropriate sediment control works.

Judge Smith described how “It appears that the measures were installed, and at a point probably in August and moving into September, the site appears to have been the subject to some works which led the council to accept that the site now complied.

“Unfortunately, that did not last.”

Judge Smith went on to describe how at one stage Mr Ma even instructed one of his staff to push sediment along the street to a cesspit, which he described as “a gross violation of the abatement notice.”

Auckland Council issued more abatement notices on October 2 and 4. But further site visits on October 10, 24 and 30 showed sediment was still not being controlled and was continuing to pollute the local waterways.

“It is the repetition of such discharges which causes particular concern particularly in light of the repeated abatement notices.

“Discharge of sediment-laden water onto the street has clearly never been acceptable in Auckland and would be well known to any person working or living in this area.”

Judge Smith fined and convicted Brother Development Ltd $35,625 for the offending,

Judge Smith concluded that as Mr Ma was the day-to-day supervisor of the site, he should have been aware of his obligations to control sediment. He was convicted and fined $21,375. Mr Sun was convicted and fined $10,800.

Steve Pearce, manager of regulatory compliance, said the fines were a good result for the compliance team

“Aucklanders want to continue to enjoy their beaches and waterways for many years to come, that’s why it’s so important our builders and developers are careful with sediment on their sites, and that members of the public are vigilant in reporting anything suspicious to us.

“Generally speaking, we take a graduated approach to enforcement and will help people to comply where we can, such as by allowing time for people to make issues compliant or giving them the opportunity to apply for any consents and permits that might be necessary. However, if offences cause significant effects, and the offenders continue to ignore their requirements, we will also take enforcement action, including through the courts if necessary.

“It’s great to see that the court is taking non-compliance like this seriously and delivering significant sentences.”

This prosecution was thanks to a vigilant person who brought this incident to our attention.

People who see illegal dumping should contact us immediately with as much information as possible.

People can report issues like this to the council hotline on 09 301 0101, which operates 24 hours 7 days a week.

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