Don’t foul our nest

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Clippings, oil – what next, asks neighbourhood watcher.

A fuming Queenstown dad says family strolls near his home are being ruined by a smelly unofficial rubbish tip.

Father-of-three Paul Downing is fed up with folk dumping sackloads of “stinking” grass cuttings in a stormwater drain close to his property at Lake Hayes Estate.

He claims the problem is escalating and that “several litres” of old car engine oil were recently poured into the drain – which he fears will eventually start seeping into the nearby Kawarau River.

“It all started with grass clippings and now it’s oil that’s being dumped,” says Downing.

“It’s crazy. A tip is starting up and it won’t be long before bags of household rubbish or even old cars start getting left around.

“People like to walk their dogs there and kids, including my own, play there on their bikes. It’s out of order.”

Local painter and decorator Downing says problems started after a dirt road from the estate leading to the Kawarau River was blocked off by a farmer growing barley.

“People used to take their grass cuttings down near the river and scatter them amongst the trees,” he says. “But for the last four or five months, they’ve been tipping them into the stormwater drain because you can’t get down there any more.

“I counted at least 20 big dumps of the stuff recently and people then chuck the sacks in the bush. It really stinks and dried-out grass clippings could also be a fire hazard.”

He adds: “The oil was the final straw. If it gets into the river it’ll make a hell of a mess.”

Downing believes local residents are responsible. But he says he’s given up challenging anyone he’s caught red-handed because one such situation turned into “a confrontation”.

“I can’t understand why people don’t compost the grass cuttings in their own gardens or take them to the proper dump just along the road.”

Otago Regional Council in Dunedin wasn’t aware of the problem until contacted by Mountain Scene.

A spokesman says: “Depending on the seriousness of the matter, anyone found dumping materials where they shouldn’t be could be fined anything up to $200,000.”