TODAY |

Fox River landfill disaster leaves a filthy, toxic mess four months on from huge storm

By Mark Crysell, Sunday Correspondent

It’s a mess.

A messy, filthy, toxic, crappy mess.

A mess that messes with you.

And don’t get me started on the mess over cleaning up the mess.

I’m talking about the Fox River Dump, half of which is now scattered throughout a National Park and Marine Reserve after it was gouged out by a one in 100-year storm on March 26.

We spent half a day with a small band of hardy volunteers picking up 50 years’ worth of revolting rubbish, strewn across and entwined into what has been called one of the great natural areas of the world - recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

I have nothing but respect for these people, many of whom are visitors to a country advertised as 100% Pure.

Every day they were out there sifting through silt and broken branches by hand, picking up everything from nappies to needles to drums of toxic chemicals from the 40s and 50s and plastic, plastic, plastic.

The film processing envelope I found was plastic and had an expiry date of January 1992.

27 years later it’s in perfect condition with no signs of deterioration.

The volunteers kept going, wading through our old rubbish as the Westland District Council’s diggers lay idle and the mayor and the Government bickered over who was paying to clean this up.   

But there’s nothing quite as humbling as being confronted by your own ignorance.

I’ve watched with benevolent encouragement as my clever colleague and best mate Miriama Kamo decided to go zero-waste and cut all the plastic out of her life, but really never thought too much about the mountains of crap that every day I just biff into a bin.

Fox River shocked me, and it should shock you.

Miri’s right, we need to do better, I can do better.

Take it from me; throwing it away definitely doesn’t make it go away.

I’m a water snob, never got around to acquiring a taste for tea or coffee. My vice is bottled sparkling water and it now terrifies me to think of how many of those bottles I’ve just thrown away over the years. I can honestly say I have no idea where they’ve ended up.

I’m getting a sparkling water maker, it’ll mean I’ll only recycle one bottle every three years while also reducing my carbon footprint.  

It’s a start, next month is Plastic Free July, I’ll give it a go, what about you?

* Watch Mark's full story on SUNDAY, TVNZ 1 at 7.30pm

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Volunteers are trying to clean up decades of rubbish after a huge storm washed a landfill down a world heritage site on the West Coast. Source: Sunday