Fox River/World Heritage Area clean-up programme extended
18 April 2019
Fox River/World Heritage Area clean-up programme extended while critical search for funds continues
The Westland District Council confirmed today that it will continue to support response and recovery operations for the clearance of rubbish from the Fox and Cook Rivers and South Westland beaches for another two weeks, while it investigates options to fund the massive clean-up that will be required for several more months.
At a meeting today the Council considered a report on the future options for managing the ongoing environmental impact of the record-level 26 March floods entering a long disused Fox Glacier landfill. Rubbish was washed downriver, out to sea and washed back along West Coast beaches from a point about 10km south of the Cook river, to 50km northward. Much of the impacted area is within the UNESCO World Heritage area.
Mayor Bruce Smith said the report makes it clear that Westland District’s 6500 ratepayers simply cannot afford to continue to fund the clean-up indefinitely.
“This is a disaster of national scale,” Smith said. “The area impacted is a major environmental taonga and tourist attraction. It has enormous economic, cultural and natural value for the whole of New Zealand. We will need all of New Zealand’s help to get it back to the pristine condition it once was.
A huge recovery programme involving national agencies, local government, contractors and volunteers has already cleaned up tonnes of rubbish, but Smith said the job is far from completed.
“We are extremely grateful for the help we have received from government and local government agencies and personnel, local business and dozens of volunteers.
“However, what this report makes clear is that there is still a lot of work to do. A lot of the rubbish is in sites too dangerous for volunteer teams, or where specialist equipment is required. We will need professional contractors for that. Also, we now know there is a huge amount of rubbish buried in the riverbeds that normal seasonal floods will continue to wash out into the river, sea and beaches, potentially for months to come.”
Smith said Westland District Council has sought central government advice on where it might access alternative funding for the ongoing clean-up.
“I am very encouraged to hear today from Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment, that the Government ‘stands ready to help’. I look forward to hearing what that might entail. We have very few ratepayers to fund activity in a massive landscape that is 80% conservation land. We simply cannot afford to continue to be the primary funder of this recovery effort.”