Riaan Elliot, Monitoring Senior Programme Manager for the Northland Regional Council, says the man has been fined $750 for discharging contaminants into the coastal marine area.
The culprit caught on camera dumping human waste overboard from his yacht into the Opua Basin.
Mr Elliot says the man had allegedly been using a plastic bucket as a toilet and tipping its contents over the side of his yacht into the Basin.
The man was photographed allegedly in the act last week by an angry local, who then complained to the Council and supplied it with a series of evidential photographs. The complainant alleged it was not the first time it had happened, prompting him to take the photos.
Mr Elliot says although existing Northland Regional Council marine pollution regulations effectively ban discharges of untreated sewage in harbours and within 500 metres of the shore, the rules are difficult to monitor and enforce unless someone is caught in the act.
“In this case the photos were conclusive and as it turns out using a portable toilet – which cost about $200 and can be emptied on shore – would definitely have been the cheaper, safer and more responsible option”.
He says while unpleasant, similar incidents occur all-too-often and can put other members of the public at risk, especially near areas where there are marine farms or where the coast is used for recreational or food gathering purposes.
“Most boaties are responsible and deal with their sewage appropriately, but discharges of raw sewage by an irresponsible few can contaminate the water with long-lasting viruses and other nasties which can cause serious illnesses like Hepatitis A.”
Mr Elliot says in a bid to address the problem, Regional Council staff have been investigating the possibility of making holding tanks (which can include portable toilets) or a sewage treatment system compulsory when people are staying overnight aboard boats in harbours or close to shore. The suggested rules would apply regardless of boat size and whether it was overnighting at anchor or on a mooring.
A requirement for holding tanks or treatment systems where people stay overnight on a vessel could become conditions of mooring resource consents and also be included in new Mooring Management Plans. Similarly, they could be incorporated into permitted anchorage rules under the Council’s Regional Coastal Plan.
Regional Council staff raised the issue with boating groups and other interested parties during a round of public meetings late last year and most people were supportive of the suggested changes.
Mr Elliot says anyone concerned about illegal sewage discharges or other environmental incidents should call the Council’s 24-hour Environmental Hotline 0800 504 639.