Locals have started cleaning up what they can as Gisborne District Council tries to stop an old Te Araroa landfill from continuing to leach rubbish into the Awatere River and the sea.
The landfill east of the East Cape town of Te Araroa, which has been closed for 15 years, has been exposed after heavy rain caused the Awatere River to swell and erode the land it was buried under.
Photos and videos posted to Facebook by local Ripeka Irwin and Tina Ngata show a large section of the land washed out with rubbish clearly visible in the dirt as waves from the ocean continue to drive against the exposed rubbish.
Speaking on Facebook Live, Ripeka Irwin says it’s been exposed for three days and it’s “heart breaking” and “devastating” for the community to have the rubbish pouring into their awa and out to sea.
She says yesterday they managed to collect up to 10 bags of rubbish from the riverside but she hates to think how much has already spilled into the river and out at sea.
Trash has begun to wash up at the beach near the township.
Tina Ngata, also posting to Facebook, was urging locals to come down and help with the clean up the rubbish.
“If you don’t want that in you hāpuka steaks then pop on down and give us a hand to help clean up.”
Gisborne District Council says they are “urgently“ investigating the old council landfill site 170km north of Gisborne and have been on site yesterday and today.
“It appears the site’s face has been eroded by the river, exposing rubbish on the riverbank,” said Andrew White, the council’s director of liveable communities.
“We are urgently assessing what we can do to prevent rubbish from entering the river in the short term, and stabilising the site for the longer term.
“We will update the community as soon as we have more information.”