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Update 4 Fox River landfill clean up

Good progress is being made in cleaning up the West Coast says Westland District Council Mayor, Bruce Smith

Officials from Westland District Council, the Department of Conservation, the Ministry for the Environment, and waste experts from EnviroNZ have met today in Franz Josef with Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and West Coast MP Damian O’Connor to plan the next steps for the massive cleanup of South Westland beaches. The Fox Glacier closed landfill was eroded by the Fox River during the huge storm event of the 26th and 27th of March.

Rubbish is no longer flowing into the Fox River from the closed Fox Glacier Township Landfill after contractors working there successfully diverted the river yesterday. The next step is to install rock protection to the area. This work provides a short term solution while a longer term plan to secure the site is put in place.

Rubbish flowing down the river has been sighted on the coast as far north as Okarito, and south to Martins Bay in Fiordland.

Flights to determine the extent of the spread of the rubbish will continue and people should contact the Westland District Council on foxlandfillresponse@westlanddc.govt.nz if they have information about rubbish spreading further than the area already identified. The affected areas have been shown to be considerable and the clean-up is expected to take a number of weeks.

The clean-up effort has now been underway since the 31st of March, when the problem was first identified. The Council and DOC are supporting the volunteer group South Westland Coastal Clean-up who are coordinating members of the community and people from outside the area who want to assist with the work to remove rubbish from South Westland beaches. Yesterday, 22 volunteers were taken by helicopters to remove rubbish from remote beaches and four fadges of rubbish were removed. More staff and volunteers will arrive over the weekend, which will boost the effort from early next week.

People who want to assist with the clean-up can find out information about South Westland Coastal Clean up through Facebook https://www.facebook.com/southwestlandcoastalcleanup/ and signup for the cleanup by email through coordinator Mike Bilodeau bilofro@gmail.com. They should provide information about their skills, and when they are available to help.

Volunteers will need to ensure they bring adequate food and suitable clothing and footwear as well as sunscreen and insect repellent. The Council are working with South Westland Coastal Clean-up to ensure the health and safety of people working on the clean-up is well managed.

Westland District Council is committed to bringing the local rivers and beaches back to good health. The Council is working with the Regional Council, the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation and other agencies to formulate a plan to remove the rubbish from the environment. This is a significant issue and support from other parts of New Zealand is being sought.

Staff from West Coast Regional Council and DOC are helping with the response, and staff who worked on managing the response to the Rena Disaster have flown in from the Bay of Plenty council to assist.

The Council has contracted EnviroNZ to manage the clean-up of the Fox River Bed. This work has been identified as best managed by expert agencies. Currently, teams from EnviroNZ, DOC and Franz Glacier Guides are working on this clean-up.

As well as volunteers assisting with the clean-up, the local business community has put their weight in behind the clean-up, with staff time, accommodation and food being provided for volunteers and clean-up teams.

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