Horror landfill washing into Hauraki Gulf

Horror landfill washing into Hauraki Gulf

An old landfill that's being washed into the Hauraki Gulf is going to cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to fix.

One of the world's leading environmental scientists has described it as like having to live with the after-effects of a nuclear bomb.

Perched on the edge of the Firth of Thames sits one of our grubby little secrets - rusted machinery, plastic bags and even the odd jandal lie exposed.

"For some reason they decided to put a refuse dump here right on the edge of a pristine environment," says Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga.

The old Kaiaua landfill was opened in the 1960s and shut down 20 years ago. Now it's coming back to haunt us.

The Hauraki District Mayor says it's costing the council more than $200,000 to remove.

"It's about $11.50 per person in our district, so it's not an insignificant amount but it's the right thing to do."

That's especially true as it contains asbestos.

It's not known how many closed landfills are around the country, but it's thought to be more than 1000. An Environment Ministry report shows a third of the ones that are known do not have a plan to look after them.

"Historically it was literally just everything put in there, so back in the day when we had DDT and other chemicals, it all went in there," says Jonathan Hannon of Zero Waste Academy.

One of the world's leading environmental research scientists is in the country and likens old landfills to nuclear fallouts, as the toxic waste leaches out.

"After 40 years, 50 years, 100 years, it becomes more hazardous if it's not managed in a sustainable way," says Dr Atiq Zaman.

He says that's not happening here.

"We need to change the whole system, the whole design system."

"I believe New Zealanders want to be clean and green, and if you put the policies in place they'll do it," says Mr Hannon.

This mess is going to take until Christmas to dig up and dump in Auckland but this time, the dump will be sealed.