Hundreds of people have got stuck in this morning to clear rubbish off the Greymouth coast after it was scattered there during last week's storm.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said about 200 people turned up at Cobden Beach - just north of the Grey River - from "everywhere".

"We had a great local turnout, one family even came over from Christchurch, and we had some tourists - they came from everywhere

"It shows how much we care about the environment, and especially don't like seeing rubbish going out to sea. "

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Volunteers got stuck in this morning to help clear rubbish off a West Coast beach after it was torn out of an old dump site opened up by last week's storm. Photo / Tony Kokshoorn
Volunteers got stuck in this morning to help clear rubbish off a West Coast beach after it was torn out of an old dump site opened up by last week's storm. Photo / Tony Kokshoorn

An area about 50m back from the beach was used as a rubbish dump from the 1970s until the 1990s.

Over the years the rubbish had been blown closer to the beach, and covered by sand.

Huge seas whipped up by ex-cyclone Fehi ate away a chunk of the old dump site, scattering tens of thousands of plastic bags across the coast.

Kokshoorn said the big turnout enabled them to sweep the beach north and south of the Grey River mouth.

Greymouth High School students joined in further south while Kotuku Surf Life Saving club got to hard-to-access places using a RIB.

The volunteers filled about 300 black rubbish sacks, most of it with decades-old plastic.

"We saw lots of old plastic items, things from stores that do not exist anymore," Kokshoorn said.

"It was all around 20 to 40 years old, but it looked like it was put there the other day. It had not broken down at all."

Kokshoorn said it was impossible to move the old dump site.

Grey District Council instead decided last week to spend $800,000 to $1 million building a sea wall to stop the rubbish washing into the sea.

Work is to start tomorrow morning.

Volunteers collect rubbish at Cobden Beach, Greymouth. Photo / Tony Kokshoorn
Volunteers collect rubbish at Cobden Beach, Greymouth. Photo / Tony Kokshoorn

Kokshoorn said they had appealed to the Government for support.

"Even though it is an old dump site, it is an important place.

"The area was a bit of an ugly duckling, but we have turned it into a bird sanctuary."

Aromahana Sanctuary and Recreation Area is home more than 100 different species of birds, he said.

"It has new toilets and has become a bit of a tourist attraction.

"The problem was the storm came from a different direction to usual.

"We hardly ever get them from the northwest, mostly from the west. It just bore into the side of the old dump site."

They were still going through the process of pulling down the derelict Revingtons Hotel in the town centre.

"It is a safety hazard. Part of the roof came off in the storm, and now if the wind gets under it, it could lift it right off and onto one of the main streets.

"We want it pulled down and the owner wants it pulled down, so we are just trying to speed up the process with the Historic Places Trust so it can come down."