Sweet-toothed bubble and chewing gum users discarding their waste gum on the footpaths in Kaikohe’s town centre have created an expensive and complex clean-up headache for the Far North District Council.
Routine water-blasting has failed to remedy the problem and the council now faces a potential bill of around $40,000 to bring in contractors with a hi-tech heat and pressure system to sort out the problem and to seal the bitumen footpaths with a special chemical.
The chemical seal system is designed to make gum removal easier in the future, but the real answer is to convince people not to discard their gum underfoot, council District Facilities team leader Mike Colebrook says.
"We have tried a number of different chemical methods over a number of years which have proved either ineffectual or very expensive, including supplying scrapers to young offenders.
"A further trial has been carried out on a small area with a company specialising in a new heat and pressure system. This time it looks like doing the trick. However it is going to come at cost and there is not enough money available to complete all the proposed CBD projects this year," he says.
The town centre footpaths are water-blasted four times a year, but the gum and unsightly ingrained grime and mould have so far resisted clean-up attempts.
"A contractor has been commissioned to spray the area for moss and mould, but work has been delayed until we can get a sustained period of fine weather. Repairs to the kerbs and concrete inset mosaics will be completed progressively.
"The unresolved problem is really only the gum. The local business association has also asked for some further beautification work in the town centre and we will be asking them next week to indicate where the immediate priority should lie - with the gum or the beautification," he says.
If the business association agrees that cleaning is the top priority, the specialist company is available to complete the work in October.