Debris litters 20km of pristine coastline

By Tui Bromley of the Greymouth Star -
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The Honey Dew II. Photo / Greymouth Star
The Honey Dew II. Photo / Greymouth Star

A Lake Moeraki tourism operator is demanding that the authorities take responsibility for debris littering 20km of pristine South Westland seashore since a Greymouth fishing vessel caught fire and sank four months ago.

Gerry McSweeney said the Haast community had played a significant part in rescuing the Honey Dew II's four crew when the vessel went down off Ship Creek, and was assured by authorities at the time that diesel from the wreckage would quickly disperse and there would not be much of a pollution problem.

Now the beaches are littered with pieces of polystyrene.

"We have discovered on our coast in the last two months are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pieces of polystyrene that now litter some 20km of all the beaches and rocky shore between Ship Creek and the Moeraki River," he said.

"This has all washed up since the shipwreck and we presume it comes from the chiller or freezer on the wreck. It is really sad because prior to the shipwreck this was one of the cleanest stretches of coastline in the world."

Dr McSweeney had contacted the West Coast Regional Council and National Party list MP Chris Auchinvole, but neither had responded to his complaints or his suggestion for a cleanup.

"The Honey Dew will have been insured and some of the insurance payout must go into the beach cleanup. I suggest that the proper authority seek $3000 to cover four hours of helicopter flying and we will co-ordinate volunteers to walk the coast and make stockpiles of the polystyrene that the helicopter can then collect," he said.

"Our local authorities have to take their legal responsibilities seriously and take immediate action to clean up pollution from shipwrecks in the same way as happened in the Bay of Plenty after the Rena shipwreck there with their regional council."

Mr Auchinvole said he had responded but his letter had been addressed to Dr McSweeney's other business, the Arthur's Pass Wilderness Lodge.

"I'd suggest that Gerry clear his mail box but I will contact the regional council today about the issue," Mr Auchnivole said.

Meanwhile, council consents and compliance manager Jackie Adams said a staff member had inspected the beaches and decided that any cleanup it was not regional council responsibility.

"We look after other pollutants like petrol, oil and diesel but are not responsible for all those little bits of plastic. They will break down in time but it would be almost impossible to pick them up, you would need a thousand men down there."

He suggested the complaint should be directed to Maritime NZ.

- The Greymouth Star

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