Spike in illegal earthworks calls for greater care

Illegal earthworks destroying what was previously a freshwater tributary. Photo: Waikato Regional Council.

Waikato Regional Council is being inundated with calls from across the region reporting illegal earthworks, many of them directly impacting on streams and rivers.

With 47 individual incidents reported since March 1 this year, the council is calling for greater diligence from those undertaking any scale of earthmoving.

“Over the same period last year there were 16 incidents, so this is a very high number and reflects a lot of damage being done to the environment,” says Waikato Regional Council compliance manager Patrick Lynch.

Patrick says that despite many of these calls being received from members of the public during the lockdown period, the council’s environmental incident response team was an essential service and responded to many of these.

“Though we may be looking to hold people accountable and change behaviour, unfortunately the environmental harm is already done in many instances,” says Patrick.

“The incidents have been reported from literally all corners of the region. Often the purpose of the earthworks has been to increase or enhance pastoral land, but it comes at the expense of our natural wetlands and streams.

“All landowners and earthworks contractors need to stop and think before they commence any such work and ensure it is being done lawfully and without the risk of adverse environmental effect.”

Patrick says it is likely the more serious incidents that have been reported to WRC will end up in prosecution, “which is unfortunate and, in all cases, completely avoidable”.

As results, Patrick urges landowners and earthworks contractors to contact Waikato Regional Council prior to doing any works in or about natural waterways and wetlands.

Members of the public can report environmental incidents to the council seven days a week on 0800 800 401.


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