Fox River rubbish spill clean-up: Defence Force sends more support

Rubbish strewn across the Fox River after bad weather swept garbage out to the area. - Photo: RNZ / Anna Chinn

The Defence Force is sending more staff and vehicles to the West Coast to help remove thousands of tonnes of rubbish from the Fox River.

Heavy rain washed out a disused landfill near Fox Glacier in March, scattering garbage across more than 2000ha of riverbed and coastline.

Earlier this month, vehicles and 70 Defence Force staff were sent to the area to help the Department of Conservation with the clean up.

Forty-five additional personnel will arrive in the West Coast next week and work in the area until the middle of next month.

Six more vehicles were sent to the river yesterday morning to help transport DOC staff and volunteers to work sites and pick up bags of rubbish.

They include two Pinzgauer light operational all-terrain vehicles and two HX60 medium and heavy operational vehicles.

Two of the vehicles sent from Burnham Military Camp this morning are HX60 medium and heavy operational vehicles, which can move up to six tonnes of material at a time.

Two of the vehicles sent from Burnham Military Camp this morning are HX60 medium and heavy operational vehicles, which can move up to six tonnes of material at a time. Photo: Supplied / NZDF

DOC incident controller Wayne Costello said the extra resources would help the clean-up hit new milestones.

"Our dedicated volunteers have filled more than 130 bags of rubbish, each weighing about 500 kilograms," he said.

"Until now we've had to store them on site, but the NZDF vehicle fitted with a loader crane will be able to lift and move these extremely heavy bags so they can be disposed of properly."

Recent heavy rain meant normal vehicles couldn't easily access the tracks leading to the Fox River, Mr Costello said.

"The all-terrain ability of the Pinzgauer allows us to access sites that would otherwise be off-limits to our four-wheel-drive vehicles. We're looking forward to having more of these vehicles on site this week to help get our volunteers quickly to and from the riverbed and further downstream to rubbish-clogged logjams."

Mr Costello said DOC staff and Defence Force personnel were making real progress as a combined team.

Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour is overseeing the clean-up and hoped to have a big part of it finished before calving started on farms whose land the workers need to cross to get to the riverbed.

The aim was to clear the zone between the landfill and the coast of the river mouth by the end of the month.

"If we can get that clear that makes things a little bit easier and we don't need to bother the farmers any further and we can concentrate up that West Coast."

Rear Admiral Gilmour said a lot of rubbish had been swept north along the coast and was being collected on headland.

He said helicopters would be used to get to those areas.

Comments