Ministers to visit flood-hit West Coast

Government Ministers Damien O’Connor and Eugenie Sage are visiting the West Coast to see how flood recovery work is going and hear views of the local community.

Rural Communities Minister and MP for West Coast-Tasman Damien O’Connor said good progress was being made in a number of areas and he and Eugenie Sage wanted to see what else needed to be done.

“I understand services are being returned and work is underway to restore access. This morning I have been informed that:

  • Power has been restored to the Haast area and contingency arrangements are in place.  Further repair work will be required and this will be managed as part of business as usual.
  • The Bailey bridge across the Waiho River will be installed before Friday 12 April, ahead of the school Easter Holidays but later than initially stated. The New Zealand Transport Agency is being supported by the New Zealand Defence Force to expedite this work.
  • MPI and Rural Support Trust along with West Coast Milk Products are working extensively with the rural communities re animal and farmer welfare.
  • Assessment of road damage continues.  Emergency access has been made for all affected roads except for SH6 at the Waiho River Bridge.

“Land damage is a significant concern and a community meeting was held on Tuesday to discuss damage to farmland and Regional Council stopbanks. About 650m of the 800m stopbank on the south side of the Waiho River has been damaged.”

Damien O’Connor will visit on Friday afternoon to meet with affected farmers and tourism operators to listen and talk with them.

Eugenie Sage said the Department of Conservation has provided helicopter support and rangers to support teams of volunteers to assist with clean-up activities. Other volunteers were helping including the Student Volunteer Army.

As part of her visit to the West Coast from Friday to Sunday Eugenie Sage will visit the old Fox River landfill severely eroded by the river.

“Litter has been observed along approximately 20km of riverbed, as far south as Martins Bay and from the Fox River mouth as far north as Okarito. 

“The old Fox landfill is believed to have been closed in 2001 and has resource consent which is Westland District Council’s responsibility to comply with.

“At this point the Ministry for the Environment has not been asked for funding. An application could be made to the Contaminated Sites Remediation Fund but it would need to meet criteria.

“Westland District Council will have a better idea of assistance it needs once its remediation plan is completed.

“Concern has been expressed about the potential for toxic substances in the landfill and that will be investigated. However because of its location there’s a likelihood it would largely be domestic rather than industrial waste and the river will dilute fluids that get into it.”

Eugenie Sage will also inspect road damage to Fox Glacier and meet with businesses impacted and discuss the impact on conservation land.

“This flood has caused widespread devastation and it won’t be a return to normal overnight.  However, people can still visit the glaciers via scenic flights and helihikes and there are still lots of other activities and places for people to visit. South Westland communities are skilled and resilient and getting on with the restoration job as best they can and with support.”