Work begins to clear rubbish from historic roadside pits

We're joining forces with other agencies to ensure the highway between Twizel and Ōmarama stays beautiful.

The stretch of State Highway 8 is known for its majestic landscapes — but a series of rubbish-filled, roadside pits has become a blight on some parts.

Borrow pits, as they’re known, are dug for the purpose of providing gravel or soil for construction projects. It’s believed these pits, some of which are more than 20 metres long, were created decades ago for new roads.

They’ve since become unauthorised waste-dumping sites.

Carpet, whiteware, engine parts, tree prunings, chicken coops, and concrete are among the items that have been discarded over the years. Some also contain large willow trees.

We became aware of the rubbish build-up after being notified by a member of the public, who was concerned about the potential impact on the environment.

We're now working with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to remedy the problem.

Resource management officer, Craig McLachlan, said the initial focus has been on four that contain natural groundwater, and determining whether they’ve caused any contamination.

"The water was tested for metals such as zinc and copper, but all results came back below the Maximum Acceptable Value (MAV), the national drinking water standard set by Taumata Arowai – New Zealand’s water services regulator."

Contractors are clearing the rubbish from the pits, which will be then filled with clean fill — mainly shingle (small stones).

McLachlan said the process is likely to take several years, depending on the availability of the backfill. Some of it will be sourced from other excavation projects in the area.

"There could be minor impacts on traffic from time-to-time, such as the road being reduced to one lane while certain work is carried out. 

"We’re also urging people who’ve previously used the pits for waste disposal, to refrain from any further dumping."

To report illegal dumping at the sites, or if you have concerns about any other activity that may be damaging our environment, you can call us on 0800 765 588 (24 hours), or use the Snap Send Solve app.