NZ flash floods: Residents slam council inaction over rubbish disposal

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Auckland flash flood debris
Auckland flash flood debris . . . frustration over a health hazard. Image: Jonty Dine/RNZ News

By Jonty Dine, RNZ News reporter

While Auckland residents enjoy a brief reprieve from the rain, the rubbish continues to pile up as the full cost of the New Zealand flash floods continues to be counted.

Some streets in Auckland are littered with items damaged and discarded from Friday’s freak flooding — causing a health hazard for locals.

Electronics, furniture, books and clothing line Shackleton Road in Mt Eden.

Connor O’Boyle’s home was inundated with one and a half metres of flood waters leaving most of what he owns destroyed.

“Everything is contaminated with black water. It’s actually a health hazard and it’s been a long time waiting to get feedback from the insurers so we’re really not sure how the clean-up is going because 20 other of my neighbours have all been flooded.”

He said residents tried to keep the street tidy but became overwhelmed.

“We initially tried to keep things tidy; we have flexi-bins and skips, but there is just too much.”

Frustrating wait
O’Boyle said it has been a frustrating wait for its removal.

“My other neighbours have been emailing the mayor’s office and they have got responses to take the rubbish to waste disposal sites but we physically can’t get there so we have got no real answers with the rubbish.”

Auckland flooding - piles of rubbish on Shackleton Road in Mt Eden
The rubbish from the flash floods lines the Mt Eden street Shackleton Road, leaving residents feeling overwhelmed. Image: Jonty Dine/RNZ

O’Boyle has criticised the council’s communication.

“It would just be nice for a plan to be put together for the residents, pretty much the response from the local government is: ‘it’s your problem you sort it out’.”

Another couple, the Naras, echoed his sentiments and said help has been scarce.

“It is difficult to find help, everything is in shortage. If you don’t get help within three days there is no use in getting help because it stinks. I cleaned up everything myself, if after six days you’re going to come and clean up the house [it] is already damaged.”

Another neighbour said looters were also a big issue.

Wardrobes stolen
“Going through, all the remnants of the flood, we had a couple of guys come and steal two wardrobes, they were drying out to be assessed by insurance, it’s pretty bad.”

Auckland flooding - piles of rubbish on Shackleton Road in Mt Eden
Street-stored flood debris . . . “Being a first world country this shouldn’t happen to us. This is New Zealand.” Image: Jonty Dine/RNZ News

The man said the council officials have let the residents down.

“Being a first world country this shouldn’t happen to us. This is New Zealand. We should have better drainage facilities here and the response should be pretty quick. The council and government have failed us in this area.”

Neighbour Fraser said they have been left with few options.

“This is probably not nice on the eyes either but what else can we do about it?”

He said even the efforts they have made have been exploited by others.

“It is quite unfortunate that people have just been dumping their rubbish in our bin, they are probably not aware that we paid for that ourselves. Even the swimming pool, a lot of people have been dumping stuff in that.”

‘This is huge’ – council
Council general manager of waste solutions Parul Sood said the flooding was an unprecedented undertaking for the clean-up crews.

“This is just huge, we haven’t dealt with something like this before.”

Sood said they have increased the number of dump sites but admitted it had been difficult to get to all the city’s streets and it could be a long time until the final piece of waste was collected.

“It is quite a massive impact on the city. I just think it will be a while before we clean out each and every piece of rubbish that has been generated by this really massive storm.”

However, O’Boyle said the response has not been good enough.

“It’s just disappointing that we can’t get the street cleaned, it’s not only a health hazard but it’s probably also causing contamination in our waterways. We all want to try to do the right thing and we just need it tidied up.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

Auckland flooding - piles of rubbish on Shackleton Road in Mt Eden
Street debris . . . response “not good enough”. Image: Jonty Dine/RNZ News
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