West Coast rubbish spill: Extra Defence Force aid arrives to help in clean-up

7:02 pm on 22 July 2019

The latest wave of army support has been sent to remove garbage from the West Coast.

NZDF force personnel flew into Christchurch on 22 July to assist in the rubbish clean up at Fox River.

NZDF personnel flew into Christchurch on 22 July to assist in the rubbish clean up at Fox River. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Heavy rain washed out a West Coast landfill near Fox Glacier in March, sending thousands of tonnes of rubbish into the Fox River.

The Department of Conservation estimated the spilt garbage covers 2100ha of land.

Earlier this month, the Defence Force announced it would be sending vehicles, a helicopter and up to 70 people to assist with the clean-up.

The first phase of personnel arrived on the West Coast on 9 July.

New Zealand Defence Force Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the second contingent of 30 personnel would arrive at Fox Glacier this evening.

He said the personnel from the three services - Navy, Army and Air Force - flew into Christchurch earlier today, before taking a seven-hour bus trip to Fox Glacier.

The areas most affected by the spill include parts of Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve and a Mataitai reserve.

No caption

Rubbish scattered over the West Coast from the landfill spill. Photo: RNZ / Anna Chinn

The Department of Conservation, who is leading the clean-up, has divided the contaminated areas into three zones.

DOC operations manager in South Westland, Wayne Costello, said the Defence Force would handle the clean up of Zones 2 and 3.

"The rubbish in Zone 1 is so dense in the upper reaches that our efforts with volunteers need to be focused here. We are at day 35 and so far have cleared 30 percent of the area."

Mr Costello said the Defence Force's vehicle support had made a huge difference, because portable toilets, large bags of rubbish and volunteers could be transported.

An Air Force helicopter would begin helping volunteers with the clean-up later this month.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs