Company showed ‘blatant disregard’ with illegal quarry in famous wine growing area – صحيفة الصوت

The Gimblett Gravels wine growing district in Hawke’s Bay is world renowned. (File photo)
Alex Gorbi/Unsplash

The Gimblett Gravels wine growing district in Hawke’s Bay is world renowned. (File photo)

A company that ran an illegal quarrying business in a wine growing area protected for valuable soils showed a “blatant disregard” for the law and continued offending despite its director knowing it was unlawful.

Wrightson Contracting Ltd created the quarry over a 4 hectare site at a Hastings property inside the renowned Gimblett Gravels wine growing district in 2019.

Hastings District Council was unaware of the quarry until it began receiving complaints.

When council staff went out to inspect the site in September 2020 they found a large scale gravel quarrying operation, a huge hole that was 8 metres deep, and various heavy vehicles.

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It transpired that the company had removed more than 7000 cubic metres of gravel from the site since it began operating, and had backfilled the hole with about 3600 cubic metres of material from other sites.

Some of this backfill material was later shown to have higher than permitted levels of lead, arsenic and zinc.

The company was issued with an abatement notice to cease the operation, and was later charged with breaching the Resource Management Act for breaking various rules in the Hastings District Plan and for undertaking a quarrying activity without a resource consent.

The company appeared in the Environment Court at the Hastings courthouse on Monday. (File photo)


The company appeared in the Environment Court at the Hastings courthouse on Monday. (File photo)

The company pleaded guilty and appeared in the Environment Court at Hastings on Monday, where the council’s lawyer Laura Bielby said the company’s offending involved a number of aggravating factors, including the impact it had on the property, which an expert had said was unlikely to be able to be remediated.

Bielby said the offending involved “an element of deliberateness, or at the very least a high degree of negligence”.

One of the company’s director’s, Theodorus Wynands, had openly acknowledged that he knew a resource consent was required but did not do anything about it “and did not engage with the council in any way”, she said.

“This was an operation that was intended to grow. It wasn’t the intention just to turn a bit of soil and turn away from the site,” Bielby said.

She acknowledged that the company had applied for a retrospective resource consent in March 2021, but had not yet achieved full compliance, and even if it did eventually comply “this would only serve to right a wrong that was caused by the defendant”.

Bielby told Judge Melanie Dickie the offending involved “a blatant disregard for the law from an entity that should have known better” and she sought a fine of around $90,000.

The company’s lawyer Justin Cameron said the quarry was on land belonging to one of Wynand’s old friends and “was a mutually beneficial arrangement” because the land had been unproductive when used for other activities.

Cameron said there was not a large commercial benefit to the company by using the site, as other sites only charged $20 per load of dumped cleanfill material.

He said the site had been, or was near to being, completely remediated, and the activity had not resulted in a financial windfall for the company.

Cameron said the company had no history of offending and had become involved in an activity that “got a bit out of hand”, which could be considered “highly careless rather than deliberate”.

He told the judge the company had been involved in the Cyclone Gabrielle clean-up, and had shut down for two weeks following the cyclone to focus solely on helping Hastings ratepayers recover at no cost.

“That wasn’t done for the purposes of this proceeding. It’s just a good corporate citizen,” Cameron said.

He said a rough estimate put the company’s cyclone recovery work at a value of around $135,000, and said this was “a massive mitigating factor that does need to be taken into account”.

Cameron said an appropriate fine would be $14,000, but this could be reduced further to acknowledge the company’s cyclone clean-up work.

Judge Dickie reserved her decision.


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