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Fox River clean-up teams recover five tonnes rubbish

More than five tonnes of rubbish has been cleared from Fox and Cook Rivers, wetlands and beaches between 30 April and 7 May, the Westland District Council reported today.

The clean-up, from the March floods wash-out of the former Fox River landfill, continues with support from local authorities, The Department of Conservation (DoC), and government departments; along with local businesses, residents, land owners and volunteers.

“The effort the teams are putting in is extraordinary, said Te Aroha Cook, Westland District Council Recovery Manager, who is helping coordinate the clean-up. “Some of these people worked eight days in a row,” she said. “We had to ensure everyone took a break for their own health and safety. Some people just want to keep going. To put their work in perspective, five tonnes of rubbish is the weight of the 465 individual rubbish bags collected.”

Cook says Okarito locals deserve special praise for their dedication to clearing rubbish from Five Mile, Three Mile and Okarito beaches. “People just keep going back, as fresh tides and high rivers bring more rubbish in.”

While the rubbish removal continues, the Westland District Council, along with DoC and other authorities, is working on a long-term plan for the recovery of the area. This follows the 3 May Government announcement of $400,000 in funding toward recovery from the March floods, including $300,000 for rubbish clearance.

“The scale of the job in front of us is huge,” Cook says. “On Saturday 4 May some of the team walked up the Fox River and were overwhelmed by what they saw still had to be done. But everyone was heartened by the real difference the clean-up is making in those areas that have already received attention.”

Cook says the clean-up project is particularly seeking volunteers who have the skills and experience needed to work in the challenging, and potentially risky, in-river environment.

“It is very hard work clearing rubbish from the tangled flood debris of boulders, washed out trees, and so on. They need to be fit, confident to work in a challenging environment and constantly retain a safety awareness within the river bed. They also need to have appropriate clothing and PPE gear.
“All volunteers are urged to register with foxlandfillresponse@westlanddc.govt.nz. Even if someone just wants to wander along a beach picking up rubbish, it is preferable they are part of an organised team. We really need to know they are there for safety reasons, and so we can arrange to uplift any bags of rubbish they collect.”

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