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Beach hazard: illegal dumpings becoming all too common

Another illegally dumped pile of rubbish created an eyesore and hazard for summer beachgoers and dog walkers at Makorori last week.

Among the latest offload was a dead sheep carcase, large fish skeletons and heads, mussel shells, plastic cutlery, grass clippings, numerous bourbon and cola bottles, dozens of grapefruit and a new-looking child's sandcastle mould.

The disgruntled dog owner who reported it says these sorts of incidents are so common at any of Gisborne's beaches that she now makes a point of checking areas before letting her dogs out of her vehicle.

“As all dog owners know, furry friends are the first to find anything smelly and invariably want to roll in it,” she said.

“What should be a fantastic opportunity for some off-lead freedom for dogs can be an owner's nightmare.”

Last summer, she heard of a dog that found and rolled in a spot at Makorori Beach where someone had emptied a chemical toilet.

Dumped rubbish, especially bones and rotting animal carcases, can be particularly unsafe for dogs if they happen across things they might manage to eat before their owner sees.

“Walk the length of the dunes on any day at any time of the year and there is invariably some spot — usually under a tree — where someone has disposed of household waste,” the woman said.

Over the years she had seen all manner of goods dumped at Makorori including stolen beehives, a load of jiffy pots with remnants of marijuana seedlings and dead dogs.

One year she reported a large pile of inorganic litter to the council. A staff member later told her he tracked those responsible from documents among the rubbish.

The family claimed they could not afford to take the rubbish to the transfer station and needed to get rid of it quickly from a deceased relative's shed, where they were holding his funeral.

Just ahead of Christmas, three lambs were slaughtered in a carpark and their fleeces and heads were left behind, the woman said.

Occasionally over the years she had posted pictures of dumped items on social media, although she knew it would not do much good.

Some respondents were quick to dismiss concerns over littered organic matter, saying it was compostable. But that process took a long time and especially during the summer, dumped organic matter was an eyesore, became smelly quickly and attracted large swarms of flies.

The woman said rather than continue to report the problem, she was keen to help think of possible solutions.

She challenged the new council to do the same.

“Gisborne's beaches are a real asset to the city and protecting them from this type of abuse should be a high priority for the council.”

She would like the council to consider new strategies for tackling the problem.

Perhaps lower branches could be routinely removed from trees to eliminate cover used by people dumping and hiding rubbish, she said. Perhaps the dunes could be regularly mown to also enhance visibility by passing motorists.

“Perhaps volunteers or people on community work sentences could be stationed in tower-like structures overnight to keep watch and report any signs of illegal activities.”

Bollards and cameras could also be installed at Makorori, although those were more expensive options.

Community clean-up groups often seem to focus on Waikanae Beach. She suggested that sometimes they could concentrate their efforts on other beaches. The council could supply skip bins for those events. Perhaps corporations and businesses could sponsor various beaches and organise regular clean-ups.

GDC solid waste engineer Dwayne Pomana said public awareness around the issue was key.

He also encouraged the community to take a stand against it.

“If you spot anyone dumping rubbish, be sure to take down their number plate and report it to council.

“Our contractors look for evidence among illegal dumping to pass on to our enforcement team.

“The council can issue infringement fees starting at $100 for littering, $200 for one or two small bags of rubbish and $400 for more than that.”

EYESORE: Rotting grapefruit and smelly fish frames were among the dumped items beach-goers had to put up with at Makorori Beach. Pictures by Sarah Curtis
SMELLY: Dumped fish heads at Makorori Beach last week created frustration for beach-goers.