Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui is welcoming the decision of the Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) which has laid charges against Silver Fern Farms (SFF) for their role in the largest fish kill in the region’s history, a significant environmental disaster.
On 19 February 2020 at its beef processing plant at Hāwera, the compnay released, without authorisation, an estimated four tonnes of ammonia into the atmosphere. The water used to minimise the impact of the ammonia plume entrained the ammonia and contaminated water discharged to the Tawihiti Stream, causing a major fish (tuna) kill over about a 13km reach.
“As kaitiaki of the Tawhiti Stream, we have been working with Taranaki Regional Council to hold Silver Fern Farms to account for this environmental disaster, and given the scale of the devastation it’s the right decision to lay charges,” said Kaiarataki of Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Ruanui, Debbie Ngarewa-Packer.
“The ammonia leak killed thousands of tuna. This was devastating for our people who have spent decades restoring tuna populations and who see tuna as kaitiaki and a barometer of our health as a people.
“As soon as we heard about the leak in February, Ngāti Ruanui put a rāhui on the awa in place and immediately started working with local authorities to hold SFF to account and protect the tuna and their ecosystems.
“The impacts on the environment and our kaitiaki relationships with the awa cannot be overstated – tuna were found dead for weeks after the spill.
“The charges note that significant concern is held over SFF’s actions and their devastating environmental impact on the stream and our kaitiakitanga relationship and our food supply as an iwi.
“We welcome TRC’s decision to prosecute not just because it helps us to achieve justice for the Tawhiti and our tuna, but it also sends a signal to industry that waterways and the natural environment cannot be treated as a dumping ground for toxic substances.
“While the ammonia is now gone the lasting effects on the health of the stream could be felt for years. We are working on a plan to replenish the fish stock, but we should never have been put in this position if adequate safety measures and robust water containment systems were in place,” said Mrs Ngarewa-Packer