West Coast clean up proves too costly for council

Work to clean up landfill rubbish strewn along the West Coast is being axed by the local council for the time being because it cannot afford to continue with the work.

Flooding in late March washed out roads and bridges and also ripped open the Fox River dump and spilled its contents.

Volunteers picking up the deluge of rubbish swept down the Fox River are predicting it’ll take years to clean up the mess.

But, two months into the clean-up, RNZ understands the Westland District Council has told contractors that Friday will be their last day.

Mayor Bruce Smith said the storm had cost the council $1.1 million so far.

“If we’re going to repair our roads and all the other bits and pieces we just can’t continue to commit unbudgeted expenditure. Even at the moment, we’re looking up until the 20th of May we’re looking at a 13 percent rate increase and our ratepayers can’t afford it.”

While contracted efforts on the ground would stop, he said planning would continue with Department of Conservation for the cleanup, and they would refocus on getting road repairs underway.

“We have a fiscal responsibility to act sensibly and we’ve still got roads that aren’t opened. We’ve got to work our way through that.”

The government has previously allocated an extra $400,000 towards the clean-up and flood recovery.

However, environmental groups like Forest and Bird were quick to point out the cleanup could cost millions.

The Westland District Council has applied for $700,000 and is understood to have written to ministers late last week after making the decision.

“If we got $750,000 minimum we’d go very, very close to doing another six months,” Mr Smith said.

However, he doubted whether the clean-up could even be done in 12 months.

“There’s a lot of stuff around, it’s spread all over the place and it’s going to take some time. There are alternatives, the Ministry of Environment may well want to pick the project up and do it themselves.

“We’re not putting any pressure on [the government]. We’re just saying from a being-able-to-afford-it point of view this is where we are at the present time, we’ve got to put things on hold in that area while we attend to other things unless some money comes through from government.”