The chief executive of the Ruapehu Alpine Lift has apologised for the inconvenience a diesel spill from his business has caused the Central Plateau township of Raetihi.
The 40,000 litre diesel tank spilled 19,000 litres of diesel into the Makotuku Stream last Friday, sources told Fairfax Media, but the magnitude of the spill was not realised until Wednesday because the ground surrounding the fuel tank, which supplied snow groomers, was wet.
Dave Mazey, speaking at a public meeting in Raetihi last night, apologised and offered to pick up the township's laundry bill from this weekend on.
"We will need to wait until we are given formal instructions on how we can volunteer to assist with the cleanup," Mr Mazey said.
"I accept totally that any angst I feel is nothing compared to what you are going through, I can only apologise and support the regional council as the lead agency and you as the community as far as we can," he told the meeting. "I accept totally that any inconvenience I feel is nothing compared to what you are feeling."
Residents of the township are bracing for weeks or months without water after the diesel spillage.
Ruapehu District Council closed Raetihi's reticulated water supply on Tuesday.
The 1000 resident strong township was initially told the closure could last two weeks, but council chief executive Peter Till told the public meeting "it could be months at the worst case scenario, but let's not go there".
Mr Mazey said: "(The pipe) is attached to a 40,000 litre storage tank at the base of the ski area, and that diesel flowed on the surface and into the drainage system and into the upper catchment of that particular stream."
Ruapehu District Deputy Mayor Don Cameron said graders might be needed to remove contaminated rock and soil.
"The spilt diesel is still leaching through the ground into the headwater catchment, there is no doubt about that," he said.
Emergency response teams were continuing to meet and determine how best to address the crisis and design a plan to minimise the level of damage to the environment and clean up the spillage.
The council has arranged the drop off of more than 1000 water containers that could be used by residents to transport water to their homes.
Watertank carts from as far away as Taumarunui and Whanganui were ferrying in water to a collection point outside the centre's Four Square.
Twenty portaloos have been positioned in key places around the township, including outside the local pensioner flats.
Portable showers are also due to be delivered over the weekend from nearby Waiuru Army Base.
A small fleet of buses are expected to transport locals to marae just outside Raetihi and in Ohakune, as well as local golf and rugby clubs, for showering and laundry.
Council staff from around the region were also pulled in to work shift rosters, staffing the water tankers and personally delivering water to the homes of people unable to get out.
Two small water tankers were delivered to the site of the pensioner flats yesterday to ensure residents could readily access water.
Ngati Rangi community health service and Te Puke Karanga Hauora are co-ordinating service care for elderly and the disabled in the community.
Ngati Rangi Trust manager Che Wilson described the spillage as "devastating", both for the communities it affected and the environment, which is a World Heritage Site.
Ngati Rangi and other iwi leaders have been meeting with Horizons Regional Council, the Department of Conservation and the council to discuss how best to deal with the spillage.
- © Fairfax NZ News