Wellington Scoop

4WD clubs fined $98,000 for damaging stream and discharging sediment

News from Greater Wellington Regional Council
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.

The Regional Council laid charges against the clubs in April. Valley 4WD Club was sentenced on 30 October and fined $60,000. The case concluded yesterday 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. The regional council 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 kākahi (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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  1. Chris Horne, 14. December 2019, 12:42

    Congratulations to the staff at the Regional Council for their thorough investigation of the incident, then succeeding in the case against 4WD clubs whose members in their “buggies” caused environmental havoc in the valley of Mangaroa Stream, a tributary of the Hutt River.

  2. The Colonel, 14. December 2019, 21:32

    Again it’s the little people who are deemed guilty and prosecuted over one day of 4 wheel driving in and out of a stream bed – this happens every time a weather event occurs, especially where recent forestry felling has taken place, or slips on marginal farm land Haven’t seen any recent prosecutions of the major forestry companies of late. The Regional Council must have thought the 4WD Club was easy pickings.

  3. Andrew, 15. December 2019, 11:30

    Let’s not forget the ‘clean fill’ tip on Happy Valley Road that was in breach of its consents. As far as I know they were not fined.