New Zealand company & directors fined more than $100K over illegal dumping

New Zealand company & directors fined more than $100K over illegal dumping

A New Zealand judge has described a contractor’s actions, when illegally dumping demolition material from the New Plymouth Airport terminal on a farm in North Taranaki as “deliberate” and “reckless”.

Rachael and Jeremy Cottam, and Maxwell Gray, owners of Offshore Plumbing Services, were fined $105,000 when they appeared in the Environmental Court. They are the sole shareholders of the company.

The company were awarded the contract for the second stage of the demolition of the airport terminal which began in April last year. As part of that process, they were also responsible for the removal and disposal of debris.

A member of the public made a complaint to Taranaki Regional Council over a “smoky fire” in June, and staff attended the scene to find the demolition material dumped at a dairy farm and alight. The owner of the farm is the Gray Fox Trust, which lists Cottam and Gray as owners.

During the investigation, council found concrete, flooring, timber framing, panelling, roof material and cabling at two pits, one which had been filled with water and the other which had been set on fire.

The council served abatement notices on the site and subsequent testing showed contamination of the surface water and soil, in addition to asbestos fragments.

At the court hearing, the company explained that they wanted to dispose of the waste at a local landfill but it had stopped accepting the waste during the period of demolition.

The lawyer for the defendants said that the asbestos material from the site had been correctly disposed of and the testing results only showed trace elements.

“Dumping records at the council landfill confirm that asbestos was legally disposed of there by the defendants, but it must be accepted that, potentially, some vestiges of asbestos from the demolition site made their way onto the property,” said Judge Brian Dwyer.

“Having said that I note that the contaminants identified are ones with real potential to have serious adverse affects on human and marine life or water life and should not have been discharged into surface and ground water at all.”

“Their company is in the business of demolition and, as participants in it, they were expected to know and comply with their legal obligations.

“The failure to make any enquiry with the council or any legal or planning advisor about what they were undertaking on the property can only be described as reckless and the defendants’ culpability for the offending is correspondingly high.”

Judge Dwyer convicted each of the defendants of two breaches of the Resource Management Act and fined Racheal and Jeremy Cottam $13,250 for each charge, with Gray fined $26,250 on the same, all with a mind to deterrence.

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