Yesterday, DOC announced that because of the excellent response to the call for volunteers, a finish date for the clean-up has been forecast for mid-August.
Lou Sanson said DOC was faced with a formidable job when it took over management of the clean-up in June.
“The task our team had in front of them was massive. Because of the nature of the contamination, with bits of plastic strewn throughout the riverbed and bush surrounds, and on the coastline, the only way to clean up the mess was with people – lots of people. In South Westland that is a challenge, with a very small population here.
“The call went out for volunteers and assistance, and the response has been huge, and humbling with people coming from right around New Zealand, and travellers taking time out to help. We now have enough volunteers signed up to complete the operation and have closed registrations. We are averaging at least 100 people a day pulling waste out of this beautiful South Westland environment.
“So far we’ve had 2408 volunteer days worked by more than 700 amazing people along with 729 NZDF days, and 567 DOC staff days- a massive response from a great bunch of people who love the New Zealand environment. The difference that this amazing effort has made is incredible and is a testament to the power of people.”
To date, the clean-up effort, managed by DOC and undertaken with the support of thousands of volunteers, and the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), has resulted in the removal of 408 fadges of rubbish, the equivalent of approximately 12,204 rubbish bags, from the 21 km of river and 64 km of coastline affected by the rubbish spill.
The NZDF has been a huge support to the clean-up. Military personnel, vehicles and helicopters have been key to the effort.
The landfill was breached by an extraordinary flood in March, spilling buried waste into the river and sending it 21 kilometres downstream through Westland Tai Poutini National Park, and into the Tasman sea.
The area contaminated by rubbish has been categorised into three areas, these numbers are current as at 2 August.
Zone 1 (389 ha) – The top 5 km area of the river has been 100% cleared. A further sweep of the area will be undertaken to ensure all the rubbish has been picked up. This zone was the worst affected area, where the majority of rubbish was.
Zone 2 (924 ha) – The lower 16 km of river has been 26% cleared. This area is where the rubbish is more spread out. NZDF “pickers” have walked approximately 4 km each day in this area where the rubbish is less dense.
Zone 3 – 5 km of the 64km of coastline has been cleared, there is minimal rubbish along the coastline but this varies with the changing tides and will continue to be monitored.