Vandals impede reserve cleanup

PETRA FINER
Last updated 05:00 11/02/2014

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Vandalism is frustrating a Hawera man's attempts to clean up the town's contentious Turuturu Mokai reserve.

Milton Whareaitu exposed half a hectare of syringes, bottles, hospital and electrical equipment, and potentially asbestos-riddled trash previously buried at the reserve last month.

The find, thought to date back to the 1960s, has prompted a Taranaki Regional Council investigation.

But since then Mr Whareaitu, the redoubt cleanup's voluntary project manager, has had a mixed response from the public, including what he believes are targeted vandalism attacks.

The numerous acts of vandalism had included destroying recently finished work, smashing signs and bottles, and petty theft.

In the most recent incident, a hose used to pump water was cut, endangering stock during the hot summer days.

That had left him feeling the attack was both pointed and offensive.

He also said he believed that comments from the public that ratepayers' money shouldn't be used to clean up the mess were racist.

He aims to make the land, now in private ownership under Ngati Tupaia, a safe place for the public to use.

Mr Whareaitu has had several experts look at the waste in an attempt to date it.

Antique bottle collector Brian Batchelor said the waste did not appear to be household rubbish.

He joined the Taranaki Bottle and Collectibles Club in 1979 and visited the redoubt recently in the hopes of finding something special.

Mr Batchelor said he thought the dump was 50-odd years old and was more interesting because of the things it lacked.

Missing was any evidence of soft drink or longneck beer bottles," he said.

"You should also have unearthed evidence of coffee, chemist, pickles and a raft of other common containers."

Hawera historian Nigel Ogle said he believed the material was from the 1940-1960 era, possibly earlier.

Several calendars found among the rubble are of the early 1950s.

Mr Whareaitu has no plans to back off from his cleanup duties and is awaiting a TRC report to decide what will be done with the material.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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