Environmental catastrophe after West Coast storm exposes old landfill

The roar of the remote Fox River is now the backdrop to a ghastly scene.

The storm on the West Coast two weeks ago stripped an old landfill and left rubbish strewn through the native bush.

More than 100 volunteers have been filling bags with trash from South Westland's beaches, but areas near the landfill and at the mouth of the river have been deemed too hazardous for volunteers due to suspected asbestos and toxic substances.

"You're staring at a forest and a riverbed, and the sides cut out and you see bottles and cans and tarps and engine blocks coming out of the car with beautiful ferns hanging over top of it, it's just unreal," says clean-up coordinator Mike Bilodeau.

The old landfill site is near Fox Glacier. The rubbish then flowed out of the river to be strewn along the coastline at nearby Okarito. There are even reports of rubbish washing up as far north as Punakaiki.

And a report by Local Government New Zealand shows the West Coast disaster could happen across the country

Nationwide, there are 110 closed landfills that will be affected by 50cm sea level rise, which scientists predict will happen within the next century.

Of these, 88 are in Auckland alone and nine are in the Otago region. There are also five in Nelson, two in the Hawkes Bay, one in Waikato and four in Canterbury.

Volunteers Newshub spoke to on Sunday said the clean-up is going to require hundreds more pairs of hands. The council predicts the clean-up will take weeks, but those on the ground are saying months.


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