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Plastic In Waterways Criticised By Regional Council

With the clean-up of plastic found in the Tauherenikau River in August nearing the halfway mark, the focus for Greater Wellington now turns to stopping rubbish being dumped in waterways across the region.

Greater Wellington deputy chair and Wairarapa Councillor, Adrienne Staples says while the dumping occurred on private property, its consequences affect the wider community and highlight the need for greater community awareness about the problem.

“I appreciate that this rubbish was not dumped deliberately along the river but rather as a result of high rainfall, however the outcome is the same. The Tauherenikau is a real taonga (treasure) for the Wairarapa so I’m calling on everyone in the community to take care of their rivers, routinely advocate for the sustainable and environmentally conscious disposal of waste, and hold each other to account when people mistreat our waterways and wildlife,” says Cr Staples.

In the Wellington region the responsibility for the management of waste is shared between city and district councils. Greater Wellington always encourages the environmentally sound disposal of waste, which is crucial to supporting regional sustainability.

The plastic found floating in the water and entangled in driftwood needed an excavator and a dump truck to pick up the larger pieces of plastic, followed by an expensive, time consuming, manual clean-up of the remaining smaller pieces.

“The real cost is on the environment and our communities. To add insult to injury these clean ups take away valuable time from our flood protection teams who have more important tasks in protecting our communities and businesses from future flood events,” says Cr Staples.

Caring local community members offered to help with the clean-up but had to be turned away due to the specialist training and numerous risks involved with water based work.

Despite the good work so far, the erosion of the river berm, where plastic had been dumped and buried, needs more attention. Significant flood protection work is underway on the private land, alongside work to protect the affected berm to ensure no further rubbish enters the river.

Hamish Fenwick, Section Leader of Operations Delivery in the Wairarapa says, “It is a carefully staged approach. In the short term, we protect the affected berm site with gravel. Engineers will design and construct a solution to protect the site with rocks without impacting the natural character of the waterway in any significant way.”

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