The Minister of Conservation and Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage says that the Department of Conservation (DOC) will replace Westland District Council (WDC) as the lead agency coordinating the clean-up of the riverbed and coast downstream of the Council’s Fox River landfill.
Last month the Government provided Westland District Council with $300,000 in funding to assist with the clean-up costs from its flood damaged landfill.
DOC has also provided $130,000 of in-kind support. Despite this, the Council ceased work on the rubbish clean-up on 31 May and indicated that it lacks the resources or capacity to do more work.
“Since the floods, I’m proud of the practical role DOC has played in cleaning up rubbish from the landfill alongside the Council. With DOC now taking charge of the on-going clean-up efforts, the Department will do as much as it can to remove rubbish from the riverbed and prevent it ending up on beaches, and in the sea,” says Eugenie Sage.
“It is Volunteer Week this week and I want to acknowledge the impressive work volunteers have done to help remove rubbish alongside DOC staff and Council contractors.”
“The Fox River flows through Westland/Tai Poutini National Park. It and the Cook River, nearby wetlands and the coast have high natural values which deserve protection. Tourism businesses in the area rely on the South Westland’s spectacular landscapes and New Zealand’s clean green reputation. Piles of rubbish in the riverbed also means the reality of the risks are not matching the image,” Eugenie Sage said.
“A 50 km stretch of coastline was cleared of obvious rubbish by a major volunteer effort before the end of May. The focus for the clean-up has now shifted to the Fox and Cook riverbeds, over a distance of approximately 21 km. and around 1,620ha.
“A challenging issue now is that debris dams and log jams have trapped a significant amount of rubbish along the river. Heavy machinery is required to remove these log jams, and there is a significant amount of people time required to remove the rubbish from them. Anyone interested in volunteering to help can register online at https://bit.ly/OperationTidyFox
“Landfills and their management are the responsibility of local authorities. DOC is taking the lead in the clean-up because of the internationally significant values of the national park and the Fox River area. It is not a precedent for councils to relinquish their role.
“The responsibility for the actual landfill and ensuring no more rubbish can be eroded into the Fox River remains with Westland District Council. The West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) will be working with the District Council on this.”