Plastic from Tauherenikau River winds up at Wairarapa Moana. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A long clean-up process has been pushing on after rubbish was eroded into the Tauherenikau River in August.

Greater Wellington Regional Council said the process of removing the rubbish had reached its halfway point and the focus was turning to stopping rubbish being dumped in waterways across the region.

Regional council deputy chairwoman and Wairarapa councillor Adrienne Staples said while the dumping occurred on private property, its consequences affected the wider community.

She said it and highlighted the need for greater community awareness about the problem.

Staples said she appreciated that the rubbish was not dumped deliberately along the river but rather as a result of high rainfall.

“However, the outcome is the same.”

“The Tauherenikau is a real taonga [treasure] for Wairarapa so I’m calling on everyone in the community to take care of their rivers, routinely advocate for the sustainable and environmentally conscious disposal of waste and hold each other to account when people mistreat our waterways and wildlife.”

The regional council shares the management of waste with city and district councils.

It said it encouraged the environmentally sound disposal of waste, which was crucial to supporting regional sustainability.

It said the plastic found floating in the water and entangled in driftwood needed an excavator and a dump truck to pick up the larger pieces of plastic, followed by an expensive, time-consuming, manual clean-up of the remaining smaller pieces.

Regional council flood protection manager Graeme Campbell said it seemed like an old dump site had been eroded into by the river.

“We have had a number of pressures over the last three or four months which have caused a bit more activity in the rivers than we’ve had potentially for the last three or four years,” he said.

Campbell said the strong river flow had washed a lot of the loose dumped material through the river.

“You’ll see it hanging up in the trees and some if it on the beaches. It’s going to be quite a lot of effort to clean it up.”

Campbell said the rubbish in the trees along the river would be harder to recover with the flow of the river. He said staff may have to wait until summer to pull the rubbish out of the trees.

Staples said the real cost of the dumped rubbish was to the environment and our communities.

“To add insult to injury these clean-ups take away valuable time from our flood protection teams who have more important tasks in protecting our communities and businesses from future flood events.”

She said community members had offered to help with the clean-up but had to be turned away due to the specialist training and numerous risks involved with water based work.

The regional council said despite the good work so far, the erosion of the river berm, where plastic had been dumped and buried, needed more attention.

“Significant flood protection work is under way on the private land, alongside work to protect the affected berm to ensure no further rubbish enters the river.”

Regional council section leader of operations delivery in Wairarapa Hamish Fenwick said there had been a carefully staged approach to the clean-up.

“In the short term, we protect the affected berm site with gravel. Engineers will design and construct a solution to protect the site with rocks without impacting the natural character of the waterway in any significant way.”



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