20 Mar 2019

Company with effluent leaking pipe will not be prosecuted

7:27 pm on 20 March 2019

A wood processing plant leaking waste from its treatment into the sea since September will not be prosecuted, Hawke's Bay Regional Council says.

A warning sign on Whirinaki.

A warning sign on Whirinaki. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

A pipe from Pan Pac Forest Products that is meant to carry effluent more than 2 kilometres out to sea has been leaking on the foreshore of a beach just north of Napier, in breach of its resource consent.

The council says it has completed an extensive investigation, including into the company's maintenance records, and while the leak is disappointing, charges are not warranted.

It said no negligence has been found on Pan Pac's part.

A leak was discovered in the 2.4 kilometre outfall in September last year. Pan Pac Forest Products has unsuccessfully tried two different methods to repair the leak and is now working on a third approach.

Hawkes Bay Regional Council chief executive James Palmer said the investigation found Pan Pac has consistently and regularly monitored the condition of the pipe, and since 2001 has had it inspected by a dive team 75 times, quickly repairing any signs of wear.

No evidence of negligence by Pan Pac in their maintenance or operation of the pipe was identified and the breakage could not have been reasonably foreseen, he said.

We acknowledge that the buried portion of the pipe has not been able to be inspected to date, but new technology means this is now possible and the Regional Council will be expecting Pan Pac to use that technology in the future to undertake regular inspections. This involves a robotic camera and sensors.

He said in making a decision around whether to take enforcement action against Pan Pac over the outfall pipe leak, the Regional Council closely considered its own enforcement policy, alongside the Solicitor-Generals guidelines to prosecution.

There are several factors that lead to our decision not to prosecute Pan Pac. These include its consistent outfall pipe maintenance regime, the proactive way it is approaching repairing the pipe, including its effective communication with the regional council and local residents, and its willingness to plan for a replacement pipe in the future.

The council also considered the fact that while it was not happy the pipe was leaking by the shore, the discharge comes from wood waste and undergoes extensive treatment prior to discharge resulting in only minor effects on the surrounding environment, Mr Palmer said.