Former landfill exposes kids to broken glass and orange water at New Plymouth park
In the middle of a New Plymouth suburb, an abandoned park has become a "dangerous" wasteland.
Marfell Park, a former landfill, was the site of a thriving BMX track until the club moved 18 months ago and left the park for the council to deal with.
But now oily and orange water sits in parts of the track, chairs lie broken and a graffiti-covered container has been scorched from the inside.
Pauline Johnstone, of the Marfell Community Trust, said the area is dangerous and the people of Marfell feel forgotten in a city that seems to be moving on without them.
"Frankly it's s... and we're missing out," she said. "It's a hazard, it should probably be blocked off. The birds don't even want to come here."
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When the BMX Club relocated to their new premises in Bell Block, Taranaki BMX Trustee Blair Riddick said the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) was warned that upkeep would be demanding.
"They told me to leave the track, leave the container, leave the chairs, they wanted it," he said.
"It frustrates me the council has neglected it so badly," Riddick said.
"We're getting a lot of calls about it and it's quite sad but we can't be held accountable for council land."
Stacey Hitchcock, councillor for the NPDC, said another club was expected to step in and care for the track, but it never happened.
She said the council is hoping someone with "a keen interest" would come forward to oversee its maintenance.
The state of the park has never been ideal though, Riddick said, as uncovered rubbish on the track was a consistent issue and kids who fell had to immediately clean their wound "or it would fester".
"I can take anyone to five different locations where you can peel back a piece of grass and there's the dump. It's that close to the surface," he said.
"At the end of the day, it's a municipal dump - there's anything and everything in there."
The roughly 11 hectares of grassy area between Cook and Endeavour Sts was used as a dump site for 26 years but was covered in large volumes of soil and turned into a place for children to play some time in the late 1970s.
Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) expected sinkage to occur as materials underground decomposed and carried out regular testing to ensure no hazardous contaminants were in the soil.
But workers laying a stormwater drain in 2009 unearthed two drums containing toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of herbicides.
A in-depth investigation and analysis prepared by the TRC found there were no risks to people or the environment.
But Johnstone is skeptical and points to a vibrant orange stream that runs through the BMX track and toward the entrance at Grenville St.
"Even in sunny weather, there's a steady stream," she said.
However Gary Bedford of TRC said the council regularly monitor the area and are confident "there are no grounds for concern".
He said the water discoloration was from iron oxide - a natural occurrence throughout Taranaki.
Each investigation, sampling and analysis the TRC undertakes has come back okay, Bedford said, thus allowing them to scale back the number of observations to every two years.
Marfell resident Cory Gardiner said kids often stepped in broken glass in the area and it would be nice for an upgrade with a "halfway decent" playground.
"It seems like everywhere else in New Plymouth is getting an upgrade but us."
NPDC councillor Shaun Biesiek said NPDC was halfway through remedial work to clear the site for an upgrade, which would install a playground and basketball half court at the "new entrance" of south Cook St.
"We have not forgotten Marfell," he said.