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Bluecliff residents asked to evacuate homes

The Southland App

06 March 2024, 7:35 AM

Bluecliff residents asked to evacuate homesThe Bluecliffs community has been under a State of Emergency for almost a month. Photo: EMS

Bluecliffs residents are being asked by Emergency Management Southland (EMS) to evacuate their properties by 4pm, Friday, 8 March, ahead of work beginning to clear an old dump site of potentially hazardious material on Saturday, 9 March.

The Bluecliffs area has been under a State of Emergency since 8th February, after heavy rain and sea swells eroded up to 10 metres from coastal banks at the Bluecliff hamlet and landfill.

Work to mitigate the risk has since included moving more than 30,000 cubic metres of material to create a new river opening to the sea through the Waiau River Mouth bar.

The order to evacuate follows an invite-only meeting today (6 Mar) between Bluecliffs residents, home and property owners and Emergency Management Southland, Southland District Council and Environment Southland.

Removing the remainder of the rubbish from the area's old dump site, located in a former gravel pit west of the Waiau River mouth, comes after an announcement on 26 February by The Minister for the Environment Penny Simmonds to grant $1.35 million towards planning and remediation work at the tip site.

Photo: Emergency Management Southland/Facebook

The tip was used from the 1970s to 1980s, and fly tipping took place up to 2000.

It has a 15 to 20-metre buffer between the sea foreshore and its remaining rubbish, following the site being partially cleared by SDC contractors in September 2023.

However work ceased after workers were alerted to the likelihood of explosives being present.

Coastal tides and Waiau River mouth flooding have now eroded parts of the site and surrounding areas.

EMS controller Lucy Hicks said they had to clear the tip as erosion had continued to creep closer, risking material going into the sea.

A 1km radius of the tip will been set up to ensure everyone’s safety, she said.

“Set up is intending to start on Saturday and work itself may take up to three weeks," Hicks said.

"There are potentially explosives, asbestos and other hazardous material there, and our focus is on ensuring the safety of the residents and those working in the area.”

Accommodation in Tuatapere has been organised for the fulltime residents of the area, Hicks said.

From Monday, 11 March, permanent residents will be allowed to go back into their properties for an hour and a half each night to tend to their gardens or businesses from 6.30pm-8pm.

This is the intention but if there are any issues or health and safety reasons this may need to be stopped.

“We have a solid plan on how to deal with most issues that could happen with the excavation of the tip, but we don’t know what is in there and where.

“Initial planning estimates are that the work will take up to three weeks."

"However, this could change depending on the health and safety risks we encounter as the work progresses.”

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