Forest & Bird has asked central Government agencies to urgently step in and provide leadership and resourcing for dealing with Westland’s huge rubbish spill crisis.
"This is potentially the biggest coastal eco-disaster since the Rena oil spill, and Government must not leave the Westland District Council alone to manage an environmental crisis of this scale," says Forest & Bird Chief Executive Kevin Hague.
“We have spoken with the Ministry for the Environment and passed on our strong view that they must lead a coordinated central Government response.
"One of their first steps must be to identify exactly what is in the dump. As well as the awful pollution visibly strewn along the coastline, the historic dump could well contain dangerous chemicals which would put clean up volunteers at risk. This situation may require a hazardous substance response, for which I understand the MfE has emergency funding available," says Mr Hague.
"The Westland District Council is a small council. Volunteers and local people are doing an amazing job but the scale and nature of this event means the cleanup of the dump site, river and 100 kilometers of rugged West Coast beaches cannot be left to them alone. And people on the ground must not be put at risk of exposure to toxic chemicals".
The beaches affected by the huge spill are part of the Westland Tai Poutini National Park coastline, the Waiau Glacier Coast Marine Reserve and those adjacent to the Okarito Mataitai Reserve, an important feeding ground of New Zealand’s kotuku or white heron.