1 Apr 2019

Rubbish-strewn West Coast brings resident to tears

7:39 pm on 1 April 2019

A week after the region was hit by record-breaking rainfall, West Coast residents are continuing to grapple with the aftermath of flooding and bracing for weeks of cleanup work.

Rubbish from an old landfill site near the Fox Glacier has spread downstream and along kilometres of coastline, while 20 residents near a burst stopbank have spent another night out of their homes, and a day waiting for answers.

Mike Bilodeau lives near Ōkārito area beach about 30km north of the Fox rivermouth. He said the sight of the once-pristine sand this morning was enough to bring him to tears.

He said the beach was strewn with rubbish including bottle tops, jugs, buckets, shredded plastic bags, car parts and "everything, big and small".

Locals and tourists have rallied together to clean up the mess, along with the West Coast Regional Council, Department of Conservation and Westland District Council. Contractors have also been working to reinforce the landfill and prevent any more rubbish from floating out.

But cleanup efforts were hampered this afternoon by more rainfall, and Mr Billodeau said people were concerned about the many areas of coast that they cannot reach on foot.

He was due to meet with the authorities this afternoon to discuss what more could be done - including funding options to get crews "on the ground".

Rubbish washed up on the beach from the old tip.

Rubbish from the old tip washed up on the beach. Photo: Facebook / South Westland Coastal Cleanup

"A lot of these places that we're trying to get into to get the rubbish, it's not accessible by road so you either have to walk in, or you have to get helicoptered in," he said.

"We're trying to get helicopters and fadges and crews of people to get down there and just pick up massive amounts of rubbish."

Another Ōkārito resident Cliff Goodwin was also hoping helicopters and "big infrastructure" would be deployed to clean up the rubbish.

He said it would be virtually impossible to clean it all up on foot, even on the accessible beaches, as the rain keeps washing out more rubbish.

"All we did yesterday - it's probably going to be back there now. Every day people are going out there, and always coming back with more," he said.

"It's going to be weeks of work, I'd say."

Further north at the Waiho River where a bridge collapsed last week, about 20 residents on low-lying land were advised to leave their homes and move to higher ground last night.

It comes after a stopbank burst near their properties on Friday and another 150mm of rain fell on the district last night. The residents were meant to meet with the Regional Council today to discuss permanent options for rebuilding the stopbank, but the evacuations put the meeting on hold.

Deputy mayor Latham Martin said the council would be looking at long-term solutions once the immediate problems were resolved.

In other parts of the district, there has been some relief today.

Power was restored to about 250 people in the township of Haast this morning, for the first time in six days.

MetService meteorologist April Clark said there was more dry and stable weather on the way and the worst was over.

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