If a consented activity is found to be non-compliant during routine monitoring, or if an activity is reported to NRC that is in breach of RMA regulations or rules in a Regional Plan, NRC has several mechanisms by which it can take action. The action taken depends on the severity and nature of the infringement.
The two main enforcement mechanisms used by NRC are infringement and abatement notices. An infringement notice involves a fine and is usually issued for a minor offence that does not warrant prosecution. An abatement notice requires a person to stop, or not start, an activity that contravenes the RMA, any regulations, a rule in a regional plan or resource consent, or that is likely to have an adverse effect on the environment.
In the 2007-08 financial year, NRC issued a total of 113 infringement notices. This compares to 72 in 2006-07 and 94 in 2005-06. The graph below gives a breakdown of infringement notices issued by reason, i.e., whether the infringement notice was issued for a breach of resource consent or for a breach of a rule in a Regional Plan, over the last three financial years.
As can be seen, there has been an increase in the number of infringement notices issued for a breach of resource consent. This is largely due to NRC taking a harder line with breaches of a consent discovered during compliance monitoring.
During the 2007-08 financial year, NRC issued a total of 173 abatement notices. This compares to 112 in 2006-07 and 142 in 2005-06. The graph below gives a breakdown of the abatement notices issued by reason over the last three financial years.
As can be seen, over half (55%) of abatement notices issued in 2007-08 were as a result of a breach of resource consent. The increase in the number of abatement notices issued in 2007-08 reflects the harder line being taken by NRC for breaches of resource consent.
Photo: Discharge of untreated FDE into water – a prohibited activity
The graph below compares the number of infringement and abatement notices issued in each financial year from 2005 to 2008. There has been an increase in enforcement action taken in 2007-08 compared to 2005-06 and 2006-07. Although compliance with resource consents has increased in this financial year, NRC is increasingly taking a harder line on non-compliance.
During the 2007-08 financial year, NRC successfully completed three prosecution cases and commenced a fourth.
Prosecution cases were brought following a discharge of raw sewage from the Kioreroa Road pumping station into Whangarei Harbour, over and above that allowed by resource consent, and against two farm owners/operators who discharged untreated FDE to water, a prohibited activity in the RWSP. Fines for these offences were set around $19,500, $20,000 and $23,000 respectively.
In addition, a further prosecution case was commenced in 2007-08 against a farm company who are alleged to have discharged untreated farm dairy effluent to water.