An old dump, separated from the Southern Ocean by a crumbling coastal road, could be home to toxic waste.
Those claims, which have been addressed in a letter to Southland Regional Council, come from a former resident, who said she saw environmental blunders first hand.
Colac Bay/Ōraka is a small town at the southern tip of the South Island, home to about 60 permanent residents.
But the tight-knit community has been embroiled in a 10-year battle with council over the closure of an eroding road which they say is a lifeline to their coastal town.
In a letter obtained by the Otago Daily Times, Benita Dudfield said the patch of land behind the road was polluted by both residential and commercial waste, including car bodies, automotive batteries and motor oil.
Dudfield said for 33 years, she endured the smell of fires lit by people dumping their trash.
"On one occasion I witnessed a truck from Invercargill with a load of used batteries dumping at the site."
She wrote to Environment Southland in 2017 which said she was "well aware" of the site's contents prior to her 1995 departure.
"On the occasions of a heavy rain ponding [sic] the area, an oil slick was always visible on the water surface. When the water level was low, a dark sludge and stench lay over the adjacent wetland area," she said.
Her concerns are echoed by a group of residents who call Colac Bay home.
Alan and Deen McKay live on a hill overlooking the bay and say their patch of paradise is home to blue cod, whales and Hector's dolphins.
"We want the road reopened, that's the goal. But the primary focus is fixing the dump situation," Deen said.
Mr McKay has lived in the area for 60 years and said the dump site has been there as long as he could remember.
"In four to five years that's all going out to sea," he feared.
Asked if they were aware of Dudfield's claims, Southland District Council said its assessment of the site deemed it to be of low concern.
"During its operation the Colac Bay landfill was consented and operated as a municipal landfill," Environment Southland senior pollution prevention officer Leonie Grace said.
"Risk assessments were carried out for the Southland District Council following the closure of the landfill in 2000. The site is considered to be low risk."
Research conducted by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa) echoed a similar sentiment.
Although the road is an eyesore and Southland District Council admit they don't know the contents of the adjacent dump site, a Niwa report dated July 2015 said the main issue for locals is road maintenance.
"In the scenario that … the beach erodes into the former gravel pit, it is unlikely that the beach erosion will accelerate after reaching the gravel pit as there is a sufficient volume of gravel remaining to resist erosion," the report said.
The report also said that as at the time of its release, the majority of revetments along Colac Foreshore Rd provided adequate protection for areas behind the road.
At a Southland District Council long term plan meeting on 5 May, councillor Karyn Owen expressed concerns over the future of the road and adjacent landfill, saying the site had eroded one metre in the past 18 months.
SDC currently has $150,000 allocated to a district-wide assessment of retired landfills.
Environment Southland had no plans to investigate the site further at this stage.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ on Air.