Illegal dumping penalised

A small trucking business operator, Mark Fitzgerald, has been sentenced to 120 hours of community work for illegal dumping in Whangaparaoa. He pleaded guilty when he appeared in front of Judge Jeff Smith in the Auckland District Court last December in relation to discarding approximately 15 cubic metres of landfill on road reserve land and private land in Arkles Bay.

Auckland Council brought the prosecution last November after a witness reported seeing material being tipped out on the side of the road.

“Without someone reporting this incident, it could have sat there for years and made its way into waterways or streams,” Auckland Council’s regulatory compliance manager, Steve Pearce, said.

Fitzgerald says he had sought approval from a property owner in Wade River Road, to discard the fill on his land. However, most of it ended up on the road reserve adjacent to the intended property.

Subsequently, the materials were tested and found to have elements of white asbestos and elevated levels of lead and copper.

With an enforcement starting point of $20,000 and removal cost of $20,000, Judge Smith took into account the placement and volume of the material as well as the defendant’s financial situation, which he described as “relatively serious”.

The court heard Fitzgerald had no source of income, apart from the domestic purposes benefit and therefore had no ability to pay a significant fine.

“This is one of the cases where it is not going to be possible for the council to recover any of its quite reasonable costs in both investigating this matter and restoring the property,” the judge said.

The penalty handed down was 120 hours supervised community work and paying $243 in courts costs and solicitor’s fees.

Mayor Phil Goff said the sentence demonstrates how seriously the issue of illegal dumping is taken by the council and courts.

“Particularly bad in this case was the fact that the material disposed of illegally on public land was found to contain asbestos and metal contamination, which not only presents a risk to public and environmental health but also requires an expensive cleanup,” he says.

Illegal dumping can be reported by phoning 09 301 0101.