2 July 2019
The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is sending up to 70 personnel, vehicles and aircraft to help the Department of Conservation remove thousands of tonnes of rubbish that were spilt from a West Coast landfill during severe flooding in March.
Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the NZDF personnel would team up with Department of Conservation (DOC) staff and volunteers to help clean up rubbish scattered across about 1,620 hectares of coastline and river bed.
“We have been planning with DOC over the past three weeks and are finalising arrangements for our support, which at this stage will happen over a four-week period from late July to late August,” Rear Admiral Gilmour said.
The NZDF would also provide helicopter support, as well as military vehicles, to transport personnel and volunteers from Fox Glacier to various locations to collect bags of rubbish, he said.
DOC’s South Westland Operations Manager Wayne Costello said about 5500 tonnes of rubbish from a closed landfill were washed out during heavy rain and flooding in March and contaminated Fox River.
The garbage, most of which was plastic, was entangled with washed-up logs or buried under rocks and silt along Fox River, Mr Costello said.
“We are very appreciative of the support from the NZDF to help clean up the rubbish alongside DOC staff and our incredible volunteers. People power is what it will take to remove the rubbish from the riverbed,” he said.
In June, DOC replaced the Westland District Council as the lead agency coordinating the clean-up of the riverbed and coastline, much of which is within a Unesco World Heritage area, National Park and marine reserve.
Volunteers, including tourists, have been helping in the clean-up.
DOC is seeking to recruit a large number of volunteers, who will receive accommodation and meals to assist. People can sign up to help at www.doc.govt.nz/operation-tidy-fox-vounteer
Following the flood in March, which also washed out Waiho River Bridge, the NZDF sent 16 New Zealand Army engineers to work with the New Zealand Transport Agency and engineering and construction companies Downer and Fulton Hogan to rebuild the 170-metre bridge.