4WD Clubs fined for damaging a stream and discharging sediment
Valley 4WD Club and the NZ Four Wheel Drive Association (NZFWDA) have both been convicted and fined for damaging a tributary of the Mangaroa River and discharging sediment.
Greater Wellington Regional Council laid charges against the clubs in April 2019. Valley 4WD Club was sentenced on 30 October 2019 and fined $60,000. The case concluded yesterday (Thursday 12 December 2019) with a fine of $38,000 imposed on the NZFWDA by the Wellington District Court. Judge Dwyer refused an application by NZFWDA for a discharge without conviction, characterising the offending as reasonably serious. Both defendants had pleaded guilty.
In passing sentence the Judge commented that, "the environmental results of this safari were inevitable and foreseeable". He also stated "there was real damage to [that environment] the tributaries of the Mangaroa River, the Mangaroa River and the Hutt River".
The damage and discharge occurred during the "Deadwood Safari" at a property in Whitemans Valley on 10 November 2018. Greater Wellington was called by an attendee who was concerned over the effects of the vehicles in the stream. When council officers investigated they discovered that there was significant damage to the banks and bed of the stream and sediment discharges had continued for at least 48hrs after the event.
Forty-three high powered 4WD "buggies" drove a course around the property and in at least 13 places drove across or along the stream. The tyres damaged the bed and banks, bow waves from vehicles in the water undercut the banks and loss of traction in the bed further exacerbated the release of sediment. The discolouration of the water could be seen over 5km downstream in the Mangaroa River.
An ecologist report estimated that 1.35 tonnes of sediment had been discharged as a result of the event. The result of all this is likely to be significant reductions in the fish and invertebrate populations in the stream (in the short term). There are reports of k?kahi (freshwater mussels) in tributaries of the Mangaroa, events like this make it unlikely these populations will have survived and they will take years to regenerate. The most significant effects come from sediment blanketing the bed of the stream which decreased the variety of habitat for all aquatic organisms.
"It is important that everyone considers the effect of their activities on the environment", said council Environmental Regulation Team Leader, James Snowdon, "whether that's recycling and not burning plastics; washing your paint brushes in the sink not over a stormwater drain; walking rather than driving on the beach; or seeking advice on what consents you might need to do work on your property. We would rather be advising people on how to minimise their impact on the environment than taking them to court."
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