The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) has welcomed the decision by the Darwin Local Court to fine and convict a company, its owner as well as a former employee for environmental offences against the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998 (WMPC Act).
Guilty pleas were entered by each defendant following an investigation into the 2018 discharge of a significant quantity of waste oils, which contaminated a large area of Crown Land, causing environmental harm and the death of several native Rainbow bee eaters. Further background about the incident available here https://mediareleases.nt.gov.au/mediaRelease/28926
On 10 February 2020, before Judge John Neill in the Darwin Local Court, Norblast Industrial Solutions Pty Ltd, Todd McCourt (the sole Director of Norblast) and Sam Cunnah (a former employee of Norblast) were each convicted and ordered to pay a collective sum of $97,713.41 for breaching various sections of the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act 1998.
In his closing comments Judge Neill stated that: “The purpose of environmental legislation is of the utmost fundamental importance. In a modern society it is not acceptable for people to have disregard for the safe disposal of their waste.”
NT EPA chairperson, Dr Paul Vogel, welcomed the convictions and agreed with Judge Neill’s statement that environmental offences need to be recognised as the serious criminal offences they are.
“The successful prosecution sends a number of clear messages to the wider community, particularly that collecting, transporting, and storing any listed wastes which are also hazardous wastes comes with considerable risks,” Dr Vogel said.
“Local licensed operators have invested heavily to ensure they have environmental controls, training and management to protect our environment from their activities.
“While illegal waste operators can undercut the competition and look like a good deal to some, as this incident shows they pose a significant threat to the Territory’s ecosystems as well as risking jobs in the legitimate waste sector.
“The Court’s decision reinforces to everyone that the Northern Territory environment is highly valued and that we have strong laws to protect it and that anyone who is involved in causing a pollution incident of this nature can and will be held responsible.
“I would like to thank the members of the public who alerted the NT EPA to this issue and I urge anyone with information about any pollution events to contact the NT EPA Pollution Hotline on 1800 064 567 so such matters can be investigated further and action taken to prevent further harm.”