Defence Force to help with West Coast clean-up

Rubbish trapped on trees and grasses in the Fox River area after the landfill burst. Photo:...
Rubbish trapped on trees and grasses in the Fox River area after the landfill burst. Photo: Kelsey Porter via RNZ
The New Zealand Defence Force is sending up to 70 staff and other resources to help clean up thousands of tonnes of rubbish scattered along the West Coast after an old landfill breached earlier this year.

Enormous amounts of rubbish carried into the ocean after an old Fox Glacier landfill breached following a major storm in March.

Defence Force staff will help Department of Conservation staff and volunteers clean up rubbish scattered across about 1,620ha of coastline and riverbed.

Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said the operation had been in the pipeline for three weeks and staff would arrive at the end of July to help for a month.

The NZDF would also use its helicopter and military vehicles to transport personnel and volunteers from Fox Glacier to various locations to collect bags of rubbish.

About 5,500 tonnes of rubbish from a closed landfill were washed out during heavy rain and flooding in March and contaminated Fox River.

DOC’s South Westland operations manager Wayne Costello said most of the rubbish was plastic that was entangled with washed-up logs or buried under rocks and silt along Fox River.

“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.

DOC replaced the Westland District Council as the lead agency co-ordinating the clean-up of the riverbed and coastline in June.

A lot of the rubbish has landed in the Unesco World Heritage area, National Park and marine reserve.

Locals and tourists have been helping in the clean-up and DOC is in the process of finding more volunteers.


Excellent work NZDF, well some may say it is a waste of tax payer coin, those people need to wake up and start to understand it helps with all types of training, and allows pilots to get flying time up and under slung loads creates team work , it is in line with the Navy 3 C's courage, comradeship and commitment. I miss what the NZDF has to offer, those outside could learn a lot from it.


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