Work to move about 12,000 cubic metres of rubbish from the Fox Landfill is expected to begin in early 2021.
Last year, rain washed out an old landfill near Fox Glacier township, sweeping tonnes of rubbish down the river and across more than 2100ha of coastline.
A massive clean-up effort by the Department of Conservation, the Defence Force, and the Westland District Council followed, with hundreds of volunteers, locals DoC staff, and army personal deployed to pick up the rubbish, much of which had not seen sunlight for decades.
More than 13,000 bags of rubbish were removed, but there was still a question over what to do with the landfill in the long term to prevent a similar disaster from happening again.
Westland Mayor Bruce Smith said a funding agreement worth $3.3m was signed between the Government and the Westland District Council to dig out the old landfill and move it to Butlers Landfill near Hokitika, where a new cell was being dug – a massive oblong-shaped hole in the ground where rubbish could be dumped.
Smith told the Herald tenders to do that were now out and he expected work to begin about January 11, 2021.
That involved not only digging up the old landfill but also carrying the 12,000 cubic metres of rubbish about 2.5 hours down the road by truck to Butlers Landfill.
"It will be taken in trucks with bins and covers on," he said. "It's a significant distance."
"The dumpsite would then be backfilled using gravel and compacting and ensuring the rock protection there is right up to scratch."
The January date was to ensure the worst of Christmas traffic had passed.
As part of that funding, $350,000 had been allocated for another clean-up, which was underway.
Smith said while the average person would not see rubbish now at a brief glance, there was still work to do clearing it from harder-to-reach areas.
"Some of it is caught in trees, some of it is caught in stumps ... it's fair to say it is a difficult process."
He said it was essential this work was done to prevent a future environmental disaster.
"Two kilometres further up the road that used to be the glacier access is Mills creek - it is the largest moving slip in New Zealand - it is huge," said Smith.
"What's happening is it is moving down on a constant basis into the river, and the gravel it is pushing into the river then gets flooded down the river and is continuing lifting the base of the riverbed.
"This would at some stage rise to a point where it wants to cut through that channel which was the old Fox river channel, which is where the old dump site was."
He said the river could potentially cut through that area again.
"Potential when and if that happens, we certainly don't want the community to be facing that terrible cleanup job that occurred."