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Penalties for pollution

Doing something to harm the environment deliberately or by being careless can result in a pollution fine or penalty.

As well as financial cost, a prosecution under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) can damage your reputation.

Pollution penalties range from $300 to $600,000. Fines go up to $300,000 for an individual and $600,000 for a business. Continuing offences can be penalised at $10,000 per day, or up to two years in prison and company employees, contractors, managers and agents can be liable for fines. 

Under the RMA there are four main types of enforcement used for stormwater polluters.

A Council abatement notice 

An abatement notice requires you to take some sort of action in order to avoid damaging the environment. Abatement notices are used to deal with urgent problems and a fine can be issued with the notice if required. 

An environmental infringement notice 

An infringement notice is an instant fine for doing something that is damaging the environment. Fines for water pollution are $750 for an individual or $1,000 for a company.

An enforcement order 

If the issue is ongoing and other measures have not worked an enforcement order can be issued by the Environment Court. Both councils and individuals can apply for enforcement orders.


Through the Environment Court Council can also prosecute someone for polluting. Fines range from $300 to $10,000 per day or up to two years in prison depending on the severity of the environmental effects. 

Last Reviewed: 05/06/2020

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