15 July 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is sending more personnel and vehicles to boost Department of Conservation efforts to clear Fox River of thousands of tonnes of rubbish spilt from an old landfill.
Six more vehicles went to the West Coast from Burnham Military Camp this morning, Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said.
The vehicles included two Pinzgauer light operational all-terrain vehicles and two HX60 medium and heavy operational vehicles (MHOVs), which can move up to six tonnes of material at a time. One of the MHOVs is fitted with a loader crane and the other a self-recovery winch.
The vehicles would help transport Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and volunteers to work sites along Fox River and pick up bags of rubbish filled by the volunteers, Rear Admiral Gilmour said.
Forty-five additional NZDF personnel will arrive on 22 July to work with DOC staff and volunteers until mid-August. Helicopter support will start in late July to help remove bags of rubbish from remote locations.
The NZDF is deploying, in phases, up to 70 personnel, vehicles and aircraft to support the clean-up efforts.
DOC Incident Controller Wayne Costello said the clean-up of Fox River would hit new milestones this week when additional NZDF resources arrived.
“Our dedicated volunteers have filled more than 130 bags of rubbish, each weighing about 500 kilograms,” Mr Costello said. “Until now we’ve had to store them on site, but the NZDF vehicle fitted with a loader crane will be able to lift and move these extremely heavy bags so they can be disposed of properly.”
After a week of heavy rain, the tracks leading to the Fox River work sites were muddy and challenging for normal vehicles to access, he said.
“The all-terrain ability of the Pinzgauer allows us to access sites that would otherwise be off-limits to our four-wheel-drive vehicles. We’re looking forward to having more of these vehicles on site this week to help get our volunteers quickly to and from the riverbed and further downstream to rubbish-clogged log jams.”
The NZDF personnel had worked hard alongside the volunteers, helping clean up the riverbed by picking up rubbish in their down time, Mr Costello said.
“I’ve been impressed by the work ethic, professionalism and support they’ve shown the team and look forward to seeing the full 70 NZDF personnel join us next week.
“Together we are making real progress as a combined team cleaning up the western part of the riverbed. We are now planning to move into new areas that need our attention.”
Up to 90 volunteers a day, including tourists, are helping DOC remove thousands of tonnes of rubbish scattered across about 2100 hectares of riverbed and coastline, including Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Area, Westland Tai Poutini National Park and Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve.
The rubbish came from a disused landfill that was breached during severe flooding in March.
DOC is still seeking to recruit volunteers. People can sign up to help at www.doc.govt.nz/operation-tidy-fox-vounteer