State of emergency lifted in Southland's Bluecliffs, but safety of small settlement remains uncertain

The state of emergency for a hamlet of homes at the bottom of the South Island has finally been lifted after 39 days. 

It was declared after severe erosion threatened homes and an old community dump, thought to contain explosives, forced residents out of their Bluecliffs homes for two weeks 

But while residents can finally return, the ordeal isn't quite over yet - the area is now in a transition of recovery. 

"We are working just as hard - if not harder - on looking at the long-term solutions for the residents," Southland District Mayor Rob Scott said. 

The area is no longer at risk of explosion but remains "at the mercy of erosion", Emergency Management Southland's Lucy Hicks said. 

Bluecliffs had been under a local state of emergency for more than a month, as the swift Waiau River and strong ocean currents eroded the coast, threatening homes.  

But thousands of tonnes of waste, including a large amount of asbestos, have now been cleared. 

"Very excitingly today the dump has been finished, 2000 tonnes approximately of waste from the landfill," Hicks said on Wednesday. 

However, the first attempt to open the river bar to manage river flow failed. No date has been set for a second attempt.  

"The options for the bar are still being developed, we had an expert consultant come in and assist us with that. We got the report at end of last week staff working through that now," Hicks said. 

Right now, the river is low - but authorities can't rule out more evacuations. 

The future of Bluecliffs as a safe residential area is still uncertain and is closed to the public.  

"It's too soon to know what all the options might be for the community we really need to talk to them about it and what will serve them best," Hicks said.