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Regulator needs to wake up

Opinion Piece

Thanks to Judge Dwyer for the strong words admonishing both Juken NZ and Gisborne District Council for their respective breaches of the law.

It’s difficult to understand claims by GDC lawyer Adam Hopkinson that because the council has a relatively low ratepayer base, it cannot afford monitoring activities.

The costs of monitoring compliance with consent conditions can be built into the fees charged for consents, so there is no excuse for the slack monitoring and enforcement by the statutory body entrusted to protect the local environment.

Activities with high risks and high compliance need to pay high consent fees — that’s how a properly-regulated market can promote better environmental stewardship.

I note Judge Dwyer said that paying penalties where a company gets caught should not be just another cost of doing business, but I also note the fine imposed is only one quarter of the costs Juken claims to have spent on remediating just one property and less than one quarter of the maximum penalty that could be imposed.

Given Juken is a repeat offender since at least 1997, and it would seem GDC has been grossly negligent in its duties, perhaps the prospect of jail time should be included in the sentencing options for governors and officers of companies and regulatory bodies responsible for crimes against nature?

It’s time for some big changes in the way we use land in this region — business as usual is not good enough. The sleepy regulator needs to wake up and do the job it was actually created to do, or give the responsibility to another entity that will be better at actually protecting the environment.