Town faces thousands of tonnes of waste after flooding

Carpets and flood waste line the streets of Westport after floods devastated the region last week...
Carpets and flood waste line the streets of Westport after floods devastated the region last week. It is estimated flood damage has caused more than double the amount of waste usually collected from the town in a year. Photo: Greymouth Star
A year's worth of flood-damaged waste, helpers leaving town, and another rain front - Westport woke up yesterday to a depressing reality.

As the cleanup wears on, the state of emergency has been extended until Friday but will be reviewed before then.

Schools are starting to reopen, with a teacher-only day today.

The New Zealand Defence Force expected to serve its last meal from its special field kitchen in Westport last night.

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor was back in his hometown yesterday and said progress was being made despite the rain.

Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine said 2500tonnes to 5000tonnes of waste was expected from the flood - about twice what is normal for Westport for a year.

Some of the waste was being trucked to landfills in Greymouth and Hokitika.

The Defence Force had been helping with logistics, and contractors with transport, and for now the mountain of waste was being secured in a pit at the old Holcim site at Cape Foulwind.

The Buller District Council was writing to the Government to outline the town’s main problems: accommodation, a growing mountain of waste, and welfare.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was now leading much of the accommodation project.

About 100 houses are red-stickered, and 400 yellow-stickered, which means they are liveable but maybe not yet.

Mr Cleine said the portacom village was being planned for a site in Dommett St.

The idea was to make it semipermanent, not just ‘‘thrown together’’, as people could be there for a long time.

That meant it could take a couple of months to set up.

Mr Cleine also asked that people stop donating goods, as storage space had run out.

‘‘We can’t handle it. The people that need them haven’t got anywhere to put them.’’

Instead, people could help by giving cash to the Mayoral Relief Fund, which at his last check had $60,000 in donations, some large amounts pledged, and $200,000 from Stockton coalmine Bathurst Resources. The Government chipped in $300,000.

KiwiRail South Island operations general manager Mark Heissenbuttel said staff made good progress repairing the rail line just outside Westport at the weekend; 600m of track had been washed out.

Buller Electricity was yesterday aiming to complete all electrical inspections and reconnections; the only homes that would not be reconnected were those needing more work to make them safe, or where nobody was home.

Chorus said it had resolved all known network issues.

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