Sharemilkers' Responsibilities

A decision of the Environment Court discussed the difficult position a sharemilker found himself in when working on a farm with an effluent system failure not of his making.

The Court accepted the system the farm operated had been difficult to work with and was less than satisfactory, but said that a person in a sharemilker’s position must still endeavour to work responsibly and to regularly check that a system is working. Further, the Court held that it was an obligation of the sharemilker to bring to the attention of the farm owner or consent holder the system failures.

In this case the sharemilker was convicted and sentenced on a charge relating to the discharge of dairy effluent on the farm. The farm milked 350 cows and operated three oxidation ponds. On one pond an embankment had been breached near the outlet pipe, and effluent overflowed to contaminate a nearby stream tributary.

The farm owner was seldom around and the responsibility for compliance left to the sharemilker; however, the owner was fined $30,000.00 on each of two charges. The sharemilker was fined $3,400.00 despite submitting the responsibility for and ownership of the system was the farm owners.

The Court rejected that it was only the farm owner’s responsibility saying that it was sharemilker’s responsibility to check regularly the effluent system was working properly and it was his obligation to bring to the farm owner’s attention any failures. Not taking proper action was described by the Court as “significant management failures” which elevated the gravity of the offending.

If you want to know more about sharemilker responsibilities, then contact Riki Donnelly