After almost two months of tireless work, the Department of Conservation (DOC) and the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) have demobilised from Fox Glacier and closed down the Incident Management Centre that was set up to manage the Fox landfill clean-up response.
The emergency response team was established after a massive flood tore through the Westland District Council landfill beside Fox River; the group worked to prevent as much rubbish as possible from entering the ocean.
Owen Kilgour, Operation Tidy Fox incident management controller, said having the capability of the NZDF on site was a key part of the operation’s success, which was completed much faster than anticipated.
“The NZDF impressed us with their efficiency, skills and knowledge in moving large groups of people and equipment quickly and safely,” said Kilgour.
DOC coordinated the volunteer effort to remove rubbish from the area, and around 1000 volunteers contributing more than 3000 days to the clean-up effort.
The NZDF provided military personnel, logistical support, vehicles and helicopters to support the task force of volunteers.
Kilgour said, “NZDF also contributed a workforce of ‘pickers’ – and these personnel made short work of picking up rubbish, working in often difficult terrain at speed to get this enormous task complete.”
The equivalent of more than 14,500 bags of rubbish has now been removed from 1313 hectares of the Fox and Cook Rivers and 64km of the South Westland coastline.
Kilgour said, “Now that we have drawn the operation to a close, we will all be far more aware of the impact that plastic has on the environment, and the part that we all have to play in reducing the amount we each produce.”