Sustainable Coastlines announces new litter-reduction goal for Seaweek | Sustainable Coastlines

This week is Seaweek, Aotearoa’s celebration of the sea, and ocean charity Sustainable Coastlines is ramping up efforts to protect our ocean. Waste, plastic pollution in particular, contributes to climate change and threatens both marine habitats and human health. It is an issue that demands urgent, dedicated attention, which is why Sustainable Coastlines is renewing its focus on clean beaches with an ambitious goal: reduce coastal litter by 60% by 2030.

When Sustainable Coastlines was founded in 2009, beach clean-ups were a fairly fringe activity. But the problem was big — Sustainable Coastlines’ first clean-up on Aotea Great Barrier saw 2.8 tonnes of litter removed from the remote island, with another 3.1 tonnes pulled from the same location a year later.

For co-founders Sam Judd and Camden Howitt, finding the situation worse just a year on told them that while beach clean-ups themselves were important, the amount of litter on our beaches wasn’t going to change without behaviour and policy change. Since then, Sustainable Coastlines has inspired communities across Aotearoa to take action at their local beach through clean-ups and education, and helped to nurture growing public interest in the issue of beach litter.

A volunteer removes rope littered on Rangitoto during one of Sustainable Coastlines’ island clean-up days.

To measure national progress towards its 60% goal, Sustainable Coastlines will use data from its Litter Intelligence programme. According to Community Engagement Director, Ben Knight, litter data will also be key to informing policy and action to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up on the beach.

“We’ve already made headway informing policy change through Litter Intelligence. Citizen science data helped to inform the nationwide phase-out of hard-to-recycle plastics that’s currently underway,” says Knight.

“Litter data collection is a great way to engage and empower communities to take action for their local beach, but it also contributes invaluable data that’s available for anyone to use.”

It’s in this intersection of community action and policy change that the charity can reduce the amount of rubbish found on our coastlines, says Sustainable Coastlines CEO, Josh Borthwick.

A Litter Intelligence citizen scientist displays some of her findings on Kāpiti Island. Credit: Ministry for the Environment.

Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment has previously highlighted the Litter Intelligence data set as, “a huge advantage to the Ministry for the Environment as a public policy tool, as it shows the areas that are most problematic and highlights to us the things that can be fixed.”

Sustainable Coastlines’ renewed focus on litter means that it will no longer be running its riparian planting programme, Love Your Water, which was established in 2014 and has seen volunteers plant more than 330,000 trees beside Aotearoa’s waterways.

“The decision to focus solely on litter was tough. Love Your Water — and all the people that got behind it, from volunteers to funders — has made a strong contribution to healthier waterways over the years. But the issue of waste is where Sustainable Coastlines can make the biggest difference to our environment,” says Borthwick.

Volunteers celebrate at the Hirepool Big Clean, a Sustainable Coastlines-run event during Seaweek.

According to Borthwick, this new strategic direction will allow the charity a greater focus on litter data to inspire insights and action around the problem, and we can expect more of the fun and inspiring beach clean-up days that Sustainable Coastlines is known for, including several events during Seaweek.

“We’re building the clearest picture of the litter problem on Aotearoa’s beaches, which ultimately impacts our oceans. You can’t change what you can’t measure and you can’t unsee the tohu, or signs, once they’re visible, so it’s our belief that the insight from this data will drive the change we need to forge a sustainable way forward.”

“We’re also having a pretty great time doing this, and would love to see some new faces at our events. So we extend the invitation to everyone to come along to our Seaweek events, have some fun looking after the places you love, and get cracking on progress on our new goal.”

Register for Sustainable Coastlines events at

Seaweek events
Sat 11 March, Hirepool Big Clean, Petone, WLG
Sat 11 March, Estuary Edge Clean-up, Te Ihutai/ Avon-Heathcote Estuary, CHCH
Sat 11 March, Seaweek Celebration, St Mary’s Bay, AKL
Sun 12 Mar, ‘The Ocean’ event, Sumner Centre, CHCH

Concerns for the state of the Hauraki Gulf unite philanthropic trusts to invest in long-term solutions in the Waihou-Piako catchment.

Take a look at the Firth of Thames on a map. At its bottom right you’ll see it has a little tail, the Waihou River, and next to it (you might have to zoom in), is the Piako River. These two rivers make up the Waihou–Piako catchment — a vast landscape of 3,743 square kilometres that drains into the Hauraki Gulf. Sustainable Coastlines is one of many groups spread across the region working hard to improve the health of these awa.

When you cross the Kopu Bridge (that’s right, the one you have to hold your breath over on family holidays), and look down, the water is coffee-brown. It doesn’t start out that way. In fact, the Waihou starts life as some of the clearest water in the world — you can visit the famous Blue Spring in Putaruru, close to the river’s source in the Mamaku Ranges. The Piako River begins near here, draining the ranges west of Matamata.

Where the Piako and Waihou Rivers meet the Firth of Thames (top right)

By the time these two awa wend their way through the Waikato countryside, they are loaded with sediment and pollutants picked up from the pasture used predominantly for intensive dairy farming. Each year, these rivers deposit more than 185,000 tonnes of sediment into the Hauraki Gulf, a precious body of water that many groups are desperately trying to save.

Sediment is just one of the threats to the gulf, but it’s a significant one. It smothers the seafloor for many miles from the mouths of these awa, altering the sea for humans and marine creatures alike, and stifling intensive efforts to restore the mussel beds that once carpeted the Firth of Thames. According to the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s State of our Gulf 2020 Report, excess sediment is the third highest threat to Aotearoa’s marine habitats.

The coffee-brown Waitakaruru Stream, a major tributary of the Piako River

For Sustainable Coastlines — and many of the existing groups working in this area — the key to improving the quality of this water is restoring the riparian ecosystems in the catchment. This requires a large-scale, multi-generational approach that deeply engages the community, which is the basis of the charity’s Love Your Water programme.

Now, thanks to the support and vision of The Tindall Foundation and Simplicity Foundation, along with Trust Waikato, Sustainable Coastlines can expand its efforts in the region, helping communities to plant and care for native flora in riparian zones, as well as learn to monitor and report on the health of the ecosystems in their local area.

“Simplicity Foundation is really happy to be able to help support the next phase of this important planting programme, working to help improve the health of our precious Hauraki Gulf,” says Simplicity Foundation manager Rebecca Roberts.

“Simplicity members have identified improving the environment as one of our key giving pillars and we’re glad we can help Sustainable Coastlines drive the long-term future impact of this collaborative project.”

Local volunteers at a Sustainable Coastlines tree-planting day, Morrinsville, 2021

Sustainable Coastlines programme coordinator and Waihou–Piako catchment manager Natalia Groom says that philanthropic funds will be a big boost to efforts in the region.

 “It’s awesome that these funders have recognised what we’ve achieved so far with Love Your Water,” she says. “Their contributions will pay for things like equipment, seedlings, and staff costs, meaning we can run even more community planting days, as well as maintenance days, which will give the seedlings the best chance of thriving.” 

Last year, seed funding from Little Kowhai Charitable Trust managed by Perpetual Guardian combined with funds for plants and equipment from Lion Foundation gave us a solid start despite interruptions from Covid.  

The coffee-brown colour of the waters of the Waihou and Piako Rivers is not inevitable, and the community groups such as the Piako Catchment Forum already working on riparian planting in the region certainly don’t see it that way.

“The better we can support local communities to protect the awa they love, the quicker we can achieve the large-scale restoration work that is so dearly needed,” says Natalia. “Having support from these funds takes us a long way there.”

Media release: 22 May 2022

An increasing number of New Zealanders are worried about biodiversity loss according to the 2022 Better Futures Report. 40% reported they were concerned, up from 29% the previous year, reflecting the warnings of the scientific community which states that Aotearoa is losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. Addressing these concerns is award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines, which alongside ANZ, is encouraging all whānau and friends across Aotearoa to take action this World Biodiversity Day (22 May) by signing up to volunteer for the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series this winter.

World Biodiversity Day was created by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, which is one of the key aims of the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series. The series will span two sites in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and one each in the Waikato, Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui Wellington, and Waitaha Canterbury regions. These riparian planting projects provide Kiwis of all ages the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand to restore their local waterway and enhance our native biodiversity.

“People protect what they love, which is why our purpose at Sustainable Coastlines is to connect people to nature and inspire change”, says Love Your Water Programme Manager, Dan Downing.

“Through our Love Your Water programme, we support communities in five targeted regions through Aotearoa, to restore and look after their local waterway. Riparian planting is critical work — 94% of rivers in urban areas and 82% of rivers in pastoral farming areas are not suitable for swimming in. Beyond these critical numbers, we know that the Ministry for the Environment has already declared our indigenous biodiversity to be in crisis and with the Ministry of Conservation stating that almost 30% of the country’s terrestrial species are threatened or in risk of extinction — the time to act is now”.

“For us, it’s incredibly encouraging to see that the health of our environment is currently top of mind for Kiwis. We invite everyone to take action this World Biodiversity Day by registering to attend our planting days over winter”.

Matariki Tree-Planting Day, Te Atatū, 2021

The Better Futures Report 2022 also states that concern over the protection of New Zealand native animals and plants is at 53%, up from 46% the previous year.

“The interest to do more is clearly there”, adds Downing, “and the opportunity to do something about it is made possible with the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series”.

Now in its third year, Sustainable Coastlines and ANZ’s partnership has so far helped put 129,824 trees in the ground and brought together thousands of volunteers throughout Aotearoa.

“We’re delighted to bring together the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series for another season”, says Antonia Watson, ANZ New Zealand CEO.

“Our relationship with Sustainable Coastlines helps drive greater outcomes for biodiversity in our communities, and it’s a perfect chance for our people to get outside and connect with te taiao (the natural environment) and each other.”

“We’ve got a very special environment to protect here in Aotearoa, and it desperately needs our help — which is why we hope to see a record number of volunteers helping out this season”, adds Downing.

“Please register to attend our tree plantings this World Biodiversity Day, and join us in this purposeful mahi to help restore Papaptūānuku”.

These tree planting events are family friendly and free for all to attend. All necessary equipment and instructions will be provided by Sustainable Coastlines, including health and safety and complimentary drinks and kai for all volunteers.

We have just kicked off our winter tree planting tour, providing critical support for freshwater quality while helping to solve some of the loneliness and isolation brought to light by the Covid lock-down.

The recent Helen Clark Foundation report Alone Together highlights the impact loneliness is having on New Zealanders. Two of the report’s recommendations are to strengthen communities and to create friendly streets and neighbourhoods. Through bringing people together with a shared purpose and engaging community at a grass-roots level, Sustainable Coastlines’ tree planting events are already helping to alleviate the problem.

“We’re excited to be back working with local communities, connecting people for a common cause and reducing the loneliness that a lot of us have faced over lock-down,” says Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Camden Howitt.

“Planting trees alongside our waterways provides a lot of tangible impacts like reducing erosion and sedimentation, increasing biodiversity, capturing carbon and filtering excess nutrients. But our events also connect people with nature, allowing them to work collectively to tackle environmental challenges in their own backyard. Our volunteers continually feedback to us that they’ve felt an increased connection through this shared experience, giving them a sense of belonging and purpose.”

Above and top: volunteers planting at Puhinui Reserve in Auckland as part of Sustainable Coastlines’ Love Your Water tour on 13 June 2020.

The tree planting tour, dubbed ‘Love Your Water 2020’, is running at a time when New Zealanders continue to unite against Covid-19. In collaboration with key supporters ANZ, Vector and Pitstop, the charity already has planting events planned throughout July and August, and volunteers are invited to register on the Sustainable Coastlines events page. More dates are to be added soon.

As well as tackling loneliness, planting trees enables people to be part of a solution to what may seem an insurmountable problem. Of New Zealanders surveyed, 76% said they were extremely or very concerned about the pollution of lakes and rivers. These concerns are not unfounded, with the Ministry for the Environment Report, Our freshwater 2020 painting a picture of declining water quality and habitat for native fish in many of the country’s freshwater systems.

We want to get as many people as possible involved in this positive solution both for their own health and the health of our waterways.


Current tree-planting days:

11 July 2020 — Puhinui Reserve, Auckland.

25 July 2020 — Waitangi, Far North.

8 August 2020 — Maketu, Bay of Plenty.

15 August 2020 — Porirua, Wellington.

22 August 2020 — Coutts Island Rd, Christchurch.

8 September 2020 — Punakaiki, West Coast.

Media? Download the press release here.

For enquiries and interviews, contact Camden Howitt;
[email protected], mb 021 985 701

For high-res images or video content, contact Helen Adams-Blackburn; [email protected] org, mb 021 022 05352

This was the haul from the Big Clean in Onehunga last year — look at those smiling faces! That huge pile of rubbish was destined for our oceans, but thanks to these guys, our marine life was spared having that rubbish in their home.

We’re looking forward to doing the same for Christchurch this year with the Hirepool Big Clean on 29 February 2020 (event now full!). The huge coastal clean-up promises to be a fun day out for all ages, with free Phoenix drinks and Mexicali Fresh to fuel the effort.

The Big Clean takes place during Seaweek, the national celebration that aims to reconnect New Zealanders with the ocean. Sustainable Coastlines programmes manager Dan Downing says that this connection is a major part of motivating individuals to look after our coasts.

“Our clean-ups are about getting out there, having fun and growing our connection to nature. That connection is what inspires people to make changes in their everyday lives,” says Downing.

We know that Kiwis care: the 2019 Colmar Brunton Better Futures report found that build-up of plastic in the environment is our number-one concern. However, a 2018 World Bank Report ranked us tenth most wasteful in terms of urban waste. And, according to Litter Intelligence, an average of 359 pieces of litter are found on every 1,000 square metres of coastline monitored.

The clean up and education focus will also have positive flow-on effects. Participants will be doing something meaningful and spending time in nature, and we hope to inspire them to reduce consumption of single-use plastics. With Hirepool’s help we’ll also be set up monitoring sites for Litter Intelligence, run clean-ups as team-building events for local businesses, and work with schools to inspire at least 600 Christchurch school children to take action.

Local community groups, Sustain South Brighton, Remix Plastic and Conservation Volunteers New Zealand, will be running the registration stations at New Brighton Beach, Sumner Beach and Lyttelton Harbour respectively. Groups will be directed from registration stations to rubbish hot-spots along the coast, spanning from Brooklands in the north to Governors Bay in Lyttelton Harbour.

“This is our largest clean-up series in Christchurch, and we’re excited to be able to work with these amazing local community groups,” says Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Camden Howitt. “Having grown up in Ōtautahi, I know how much we love our coastlines and we’re looking forward to seeing heaps of passionate people get involved.”

The Hirepool Big Clean is part of our Love Your Coast 2020 series, which includes beach clean-ups in Auckland on 7 March and Porirua on 4 April — registration for these events is open here.

Be part of the drive to reduce waste and prevent unnecessary waste ending up in landfill and help our team run workshops to educate the public! Sustainable Coastlines will be present at Silo Park’s summer series of films, markets and music to ensure litter gets to where it’s supposed to go.

Recycling volunteer opportunities

We need volunteers to support members of the public to make the best choices for their waste. This will be through korero with individuals and the use of visual displays at the waste stations. Bring along your kids and your mates and enjoy the festivities while helping out the environment!

If you’re keen to volunteer on a film night, we’ll need you from 5pm till late. Your busy times will be before and after the film, so during the film you can sit back and relax (we’ll provide your seats)! For the daytime events, we just need you for a three-hour shift (12–3pm or 3–6pm), so you have time to explore before or after.

Film nights

24 Jan — 2040

7 Feb — Rocketman

6 March — Maiden

20 March — People’s Choice

27 March — Season Finale

Daytime events

26 Jan — Ice Cream Sundae

8 Feb — World on the Street: Latin America

15 Feb — Silo Zoo

22 Feb — Bespoke (all about cycling)

14 March — World on the Street: East and South East Asia

21 March — Dog Day Afternoon

28 March — The Great Silo Park Neighbourhood Block Party


Workshop volunteer opportunities

Our team will also be holding workshops during some of these events, educating the public on our coastlines and planting activities through interactive projects for kids and adults alike. We’re after volunteers to assist with running these workshops, so if you’re keen to get stuck in, see the details below.

Workshop shifts will run from 12–6pm. You’ll be there with one of our team or our trusted ambassadors. These workshops are a lot of fun — both to attend and to run!

25 Jan — Coastlines workshop

16 Feb — Planting workshop

23 Feb — Coastlines workshop

15 March — Workshop TBC

28 March — Eco-friendly party workshop

To sign up to volunteer, please email [email protected] with the hours and days you’re keen to work or to find out more.

See more information about Silo Park’s events here.

At the beginning of 2019 the Sustainable Coastlines crew committed to an ambitious goal for the regeneration of Aotearoa: to plant 50,000 native trees and shrubs next to waterways in one year.

So, from June to September this year we hit 17 locations in 11 regions across the country. With locations as far north as Whangarei right down to the Cardrona Valley in the south, we made some amazing local connections along the way.

After crunching the numbers we are very pleased to announce our biggest results since we started looking after waterways in 2010.

During the 2019 ANZ Love Your Water tour, we planted a whopping 68,033 native seedlings! This couldn’t have happened without the help of the 2,874 volunteers and more than 40 community groups and businesses, so a huge thank you to all involved.

We are super proud of the results and looking forward to making commitments to scale up restoration in the long term. Our mission is to enable people to look after the places that they love, so if you have a project that you want help with then please contact us here.

We have already begun planning an even bigger Love Your Water 2020 tour and are actively looking for sites around the country to support, and sponsors and volunteers to get involved, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.

Each of our planting locations has its own story, so for a full run-down, download the full project report here.

Eighty-two per cent of New Zealanders are extremely or very concerned about water pollution, with the issue rating higher than both living costs and the national health system.

Addressing the concern Sustainable Coastlines, together with ANZ, is hitting the road to plant native trees and flaxes across New Zealand as part of the ANZ Love Your Water Tour 2019.

The ANZ Love Your Water Tour 2019 will see hundreds of Kiwi volunteers plant tens of thousands of native plants and trees along waterways in 10 New Zealand regions.

The joint riparian restoration effort aims to help reduce pollution by soaking up runoff, controlling erosion by stabilising river banks, creating habitat for improving native biodiversity and helps remove pollution from the atmosphere, directly addressing Climate Change.

As part of the planting effort, Sustainable Coastlines is engaging thousands of school students, families, corporate volunteers, farmers and others to amplify important waterways restoration already being carried out by local community groups.

“Cleaning up our waterways is an immense challenge,” says Sam Judd, Co-Founder of Sustainable Coastlines and former Young New Zealander of the Year, “and this is an issue that affects everyone in the community.”

But despite the difficulty of cleaning up waterways, Judd remains confident that it can be done: “Planting trees next to waterways is one way that we can tackle this challenge with measurable results,” says Judd, “the goal of this tour is to support local efforts to scale up this awesome activity,” he says.

As well as collaborating with local farmers and ANZ staff in the regions, the group is also planting thousands of trees in the main centres where waterways suffer the worst pollution.

This isn’t the first time ANZ and Sustainable Coastlines have worked together. Earlier this year more than 1,250 ANZ employees and Sustainable Coastlines staff collected around 10,000 litres of rubbish off New Zealand beaches.

ANZ Managing Director Commercial and Agri, Mark Hiddleston, says the ANZ Love Your Water Tour provides a practical opportunity for staff and customers to help protect the environment.

“We’re looking forward to working with our customers, stakeholders and local community groups across New Zealand to benefit our waterways. We hope everyone involved in the tour learns something new about protecting the environment,” says Mr Hiddleston.

Check out the tour video