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Bluecliffs residents ‘hacked off’ over treatment

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Local Democracy Reporter

21 March 2024, 8:15 PM

Bluecliffs residents ‘hacked off’ over treatmentBluecliffs is a small coastal township, 10km from Tūātapere, which was under a state of emergency until earlier this week. Photo: Emergency Management Southland/Supplied

A Bluecliffs resident says people are “hacked off” at emergency management’s communication while the area has been under threat.

On Wednesday (20 Mar), Emergency Management Southland announced residents of the small coastal hamlet could return home following a 12 day evacuation to clear an old dumpsite.

The area has been hammered by erosion in recent months, with both properties and the landfill in the firing line.

Resident Uli Sirch was happy to be allowed home on Wednesday, but took exception with emergency management’s ability to relay information.

Looking at the site last night, it showed the work was complete, but it wasn’t until the “last minute” today that residents were told they could return, she said.

Residents had previously expressed frustrated at only being given two days notice to leave their properties prior to the March 8 evacuation.

“They just don’t care, they see us as a nuisance in the way. And they’d much rather not deal with us at all,” Sirch said.

“Most people seem pretty hacked off.”

Emergency management said around 2000 tonnes of rubbish had been removed from the dumpsite at Bluecliffs.

No explosives were found, but a large amount of asbestos was being managed by specialists.

Group recovery manager Lucy Hicks said the green light for permanent residents to return had only been given once a contaminated land specialist had walked the site on Wednesday and confirmed all the material was gone.

Residents were given daily updates on progress and additional support had been put in place including a 24 hour phone line, she said.

“The plans for the removal work and setting a start date took weeks of work, and was confirmed the day before residents were notified that they would need to evacuate.

“Residents were all advised that evacuation may be necessary even before the state of emergency was declared.”

Hicks said her organisation was pleased contractors had been able to finish removing the material 9 days ahead of schedule.

Emergency management is reviewing an assessment of its unsuccessful attempt to open the Waiau River bar — a move it hoped would provide some protection to properties.

The community would soon be engaged on potential next moves, it said.

Southland Mayor Rob Scott has previously indicated managed retreat is the only long-term solution for Bluecliffs residents.

The area entered a recovery phase on Monday after the state of emergency ended.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air

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