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NZDF Sends More Personnel for Fox River Clean Up

22 July 2019

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) is sending 30 additional personnel to Westland today to help remove tonnes of rubbish strewn across two of the region’s pristine rivers and coastline.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) estimates about 2100 hectares, equivalent to 3000 rugby fields, have been contaminated with rubbish spilt from a disused landfill near Fox River during severe flooding in March.

Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour, the Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, said personnel from the three Services – Navy, Army and Air Force – flew to Christchurch on a Royal New Zealand Air Force Boeing 757 aircraft and then took the seven-hour bus journey to Fox Glacier.

“We hope these personnel will boost DOC’s efforts to clean up the rubbish,” Rear Admiral Gilmour said.

The affected areas include parts of Westland Tai Poutini National Park, Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area, Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve and a mataitai reserve.                                               

DOC operations manager in South Westland Wayne Costello said the NZDF personnel would lead the clean-up of Zone 2, which runs from the confluence of Fox River and Cook River to the Tasman Sea, and Zone 3, which is about 60 kilometres long and runs along the coastline stretching from the mouth of the Karangarua River to North Okarito Lagoon.

“The rubbish in Zone 1 is so dense in the upper reaches that our efforts with volunteers need to be focussed here. We are at day 35 and so far have cleared 30 per cent of the area,” Mr Costello said.

“It’s awesome to be able to split up the tasks for zones 2 and 3, allocate these to the NZDF and know that the NZDF team will just get on and get it done. At the same time, the NZDF support of the volunteer operations in the field has been absolutely essential – getting the volunteers on-site, moving the portable toilets, picking up the 500-kilogram bags of rubbish. It’s been a great team effort.”

The NZDF is deploying, in phases, up to 70 personnel, vehicles and aircraft to support the Fox River clean-up. It currently has 18 New Zealand Army personnel and eight vehicles in Westland.

Helicopter support will start in late July to help remove bags of rubbish from remote locations.


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