16 August 2019
The last contingent of 17 military personnel is leaving Westland and returning to their home units today as the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) ends six weeks of support for the massive Department of Conservation-led Fox River rubbish spill clean-up.
Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the NZDF deployed, in phases, about 130 civilian and military personnel, 20 military vehicles and a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) A109 light-utility helicopter to support the clean-up.
Fourteen Pinzgauer light operational all-terrain vehicles transported military personnel, Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and volunteers to and from work sites along the 21-kilometre length of the Fox and Cook rivers.
The helicopter also helped DOC conduct an aerial survey of work sites and flew clean-up teams to Zone 3, along the 64-kilometre coastline, of the affected area.
“The extra pairs of hands from the NZDF made a difference in this massive operation,” Rear Admiral Gilmour said.
“The all-terrain capability of our vehicles and our helicopter allowed DOC to access sites that would otherwise have been inaccessible to civilian four-wheel-drive vehicles.
There was no road access to work sites on the coastline and the quickest way to bring personnel there was by air, Rear Admiral Gilmour said.
“It has been a privilege to use our specialist capabilities in working with the volunteers and local community to clean up the affected areas.”
DOC said the equivalent of more than 14,500 bags of rubbish had been removed from the Fox and Cook rivers and coastline of South Westland before the predicted spring floods in September.
The NZDF contributed 1600 personnel days to the clean-up, DOC 832.5 staff days and volunteers more than 3000 days.