Love your Coast Rarotonga | Sustainable Coastlines

Event impacts

Event Details


Sustainable Coastlines is a New Zealand-based charity group that coordinates and supports large-scale coastal clean-up events, educational programs, public awareness campaigns, riparian planting activities and other projects aimed at looking after coastlines around Aotearoa and the Pacific.

In 2010 Sustainable Coastlines worked with other New Zealand non-profits to launch Love your Coast: an ongoing resource to help people around the world learn how to look after the coastlines we all love. Through the project website,, anyone can learn more about the issues affecting our coastlines, find events, create their own clean-up and share their results for free. The project informs and motivates communities to look after their local environment through simple, hands-on solutions.

From 22 October to 11 November 2012, representatives from Sustainable Coastlines worked alongside the Cook Islands National Environment Service to deliver the Love your Coast Rarotonga: Education and Clean-up Tour. This three-week project was an introduction to ‘Love your Coast’ in the Cook Islands: raising awareness about the effects of littering on the marine environment and assessing the community need and capacity for the ongoing delivery of this important message.

Key objectives

  • Spread awareness messaging on the effects of litter in the marine environment and motivate people to take action.
  • Establish the need and capacity for the ongoing delivery of litter awareness messaging.
  • Find and train existing and potential leaders in educational roles in the delivery of the Love your Coast litter awareness presentation for ongoing dissemination of this message.
  • Share resources and expertise for educating communities on the effects of litter in the marine environment and generally for pro-environmental behavioural change.
  • Develop and improve educational content, establish key contacts and consider initial plans to extend a similar project around other groups in the Cook Islands.
  • Gain an overview of the waste management systems currently in place in the Cook Islands, the work going on in this space, and identify opportunities for incorporating locally-relevant waste minimisation education into awareness messaging.
  • Introduce ‘Love your Coast’ to the Cook Islands National Environment Service, schools and other community groups.



Single-use plastic problem

Over the course of the tour 527 volunteers were motivated to remove 5,680 litres / 713 kilograms of rubbish from local coastlines. In total nearly 20,000 individual items of rubbish were picked-up, including 2,196 plastic bags, 2,250 food wrappers or containers, and 1,065 plastic bottles. Single-use, disposable plastic products made up over 66% of the items found: evidence that echoes the educational message about reducing dependence on these products that was delivered during the tour. These findings provide a strong rationale for the great work the Cook Islands government is already doing to phase out the import of single-use plastic products such as plastic bags.

Strong educational results

The Love your Coast awareness presentation was delivered to 817 people in Rarotonga, mainly school students. This presentation was a locally tailored version of a presentation that has been delivered to over 67,000 people around the Pacific in the last three and a half years. Through surveys of the school students that attended*, it is evident that the Love your Coast presentation was both enjoyable and impactful, with students indicating good retention of information and positive behavioural intent:

  • 78% liked the presentation “A lot”
  • 86% understood “Everything” or “Most” of the presentation.
  • 78% learned “A lot” from the films and photos showed.
  • 89% said they would talk to others about looking after their rubbish.
  • 57% said the presentation made them want to clean-up the beach “A lot”.
  • 82% said that following the presentation, they want to “Tell other people not to drop rubbish”.
  • 73% said that following the presentation, they want to “Use less plastic”.

*Figures are from surveys returned from 174 students at time of publication.

Ongoing need for improved waste behaviour

Despite a modern waste management system including an engineered and lined landfill, recently upgraded recycling centre and free weekly collection service for rubbish and recycling, litter problems and poor waste disposal practices are still evident. Rubbish burning and littering is frequently witnessed around the island and laws against these actions are rarely enforced. A recent audit of the landfill showed that 67.5% of materials could have been diverted through recycling or composting: a statistic that contributes to current estimates that a new landfill will be needed in seven years.

Need for ongoing clean-ups

This project built on the success of September’s second annual Rarotonga Rubbish Round-up, an event that is set to continue under the leadership of the National Environment Service. It is clear that coastal clean-ups are a well-established community activity and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. The volumes of rubbish collected in the small number of clean-up activities during this tour, such a short time after September’s clean-up events, indicate an ongoing community need for these activities.

Further awareness resources needed

The core message of this tour was to raise awareness of the effects of rubbish on our marine environment and simple solutions to address it.

While a number of educational materials currently exist for waste education in the Cook Islands, few cover the effects of litter in the marine environment. It was also evident that further resources are required to deliver and spread the educational message. During the Rarotonga Rubbish Round-up, for example, resources were not available to provide participating schools with an educational background to the clean-up activity.

Project participants – including teachers, principals and community group leaders — expressed enthusiasm for both digital and printed versions of Love your Coast awareness resources.

Digital versions of these were supplied to National Environment Service, Creative Centre, Avatea Primary School, Nukutere College, Titikaveka College, Takitumu Primary School, Te Uki Ou School, Creative Centre, WATSAN, Muri Environment Care Group, Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative, and Aitutaki Conservation Trust.

Media willing to assist in educating the community

Significant media attention was received throughout the project, with two features on national television, interviews on two radio stations and extensive coverage in the national daily newspaper Cook Islands News.

This coverage extended the reach of the awareness message far beyond the participants who engaged directly, creating a large launch and providing a strong precedent to help secure future project sponsorship opportunities.

Prior to the completion of the tour, a number of short awareness spots were recorded in partnership with Matariki FM, a popular Rarotonga-wide radio station. There are plans to translate these into Cook Islands Maori and air them on an ongoing basis. Plans are also in place, pending availability of funds to cover costs, to install signage alongside the main road in Avarua to further promote the Love your Coast message. Several groups advised that there would be a strong opportunity for government funded and/or pro-bono media space available for a video-based litter awareness message on national television, an indication that provides a strong justification for the production of such a resource.

Live entertainment an important incentive

A number of contacts indicated that a free, all ages musical celebration, would be a highly effective way of rewarding project participants and incentivizing involvement. This mix of entertainment, fun and education has proven to be successful in past projects and helps to position Love your Coast activities as desirable rather than a community service or obligation. Initial discussions regarding such a celebration alongside Friday 9 November’s Tiki Taane & Shapeshifter concert had to be abandoned due to a change in concert venue outside of the control of Sustainable Coastlines. Other incentives discussed include providing Love your Coast t-shirts and/or reusable water bottles to key supporters. These concepts are both effective means of promoting a positive environmental message on a long-term basis.

Educational and community leaders key contacts

Leaders of educational institutions, NGOs and villages around Rarotonga proved to be the most receptive to the Love your Coast project. They responded to and engaged with awareness, coastal clean-up and data collection activities throughout the project and showed enthusiasm for future involvement. Some progress was made in training leaders to deliver awareness materials on an ongoing basis and all such leaders were provided with resources to learn more.

Timing of events & program is of critical importance

Timing for this part of the project occurred in alignment with a Friday 9 November concert held by popular band Shapeshifter as a fundraiser for Sustainable Coastlines. This assisted the charity to cover essential logistical costs, but also reduced the lead-in time for the program. We have identified that with a longer lead-in time that engagement levels would increase and make the project even more successful. Similar future projects would look further into the most appropriate timing to allow the largest possible community involvement and most effective awareness message. Initial discussions regarding a similar project in the future indicate that it would be most effective to align timings with those of Lagoon Day, National Environment Week, Constitution Week and/or the lead-up to the Rubbish Round-up.

Strong support from a variety of sectors promising for future

Sustainable Coastlines received support from a wide variety of organisations and people in the project. Assistance came from government, businesses (through sponsorship of accommodation, car hire and assistance on the ground), schools, and non-government organisations. This indicates strong opportunities to engage with and build the capacity of a great variety of people in the Cook Islands through future Love your Coast work.



Conclusion & Future Opportunities

The Love your Coast Rarotonga: Education and Clean-up Tour was conducted as a pilot study to gauge opportunities for ongoing work in the Cook Islands and other areas of the Pacific. Aside from the aforementioned objectives, this project was positioned as an educational follow-on from September’s Rarotonga Rubbish Round-up and was aligned to meet several objectives of the Cook Islands environmental theme for 2012 “Taau Taku Tita — Taking Action Against Waste 2012”.

The project found an evident ongoing community need for improved waste behaviours, coastal clean-up activities and litter awareness work in Rarotonga. A strong opportunity exists to further spread this work in Rarotonga and strategically introduce it to other Cook Islands communities, with consideration to improvements in waste management systems.

The major objective of future work would be to fully train Love your Coast ‘ambassadors’ in as many Cook Islands communities as possible that would independently conduct ongoing litter awareness, prevention and clean-up activities.

Collaboration with the Cook Islands National Environment Service made a crucial difference in the first stage of this project. Their provision of logistical support, relevant local knowledge, key contacts within the community and experience in the regional environmental sector was invaluable and it is recommended that future work aligns with their priorities and helps to build their capacity.

Gaining support from school principals, village MP’s, local NGO’s, church and youth group leaders is critical in garnering high levels of community involvement. These connections offer mutually beneficial rewards, involving more people in local solutions while allowing the transfer of knowledge and skills specific to the Love your Coast project to a diverse range of groups.

In addition, future projects aim to align with the Cook Islands National Olympic Committee to train and up-skill athletes as local project ambassadors.

By connecting simple, individual actions with a common and highly tangible problem, the Love your Coast project provides the perfect opportunity for an achievable community-owned and -run solution.

In a short time a good appreciation was gained of the community need and capacity for the ongoing delivery of the Love your Coast litter awareness message. With more resources, similar projects in the future can reach more of the community and set in motion a longer-term litter awareness and prevention strategy that applies not only to Rarotonga but also to the Outer Islands.




Project details

In late October and early November this year, we are working alongside the Cook Islands National Environment Service to run our latest awareness and action project: the Love your Coast Rarotonga Education and Clean-up Tour.

We invite any interested schools, community groups and organisations in Rarotonga to join the fun and get involved! Our experienced presenters and event managers will happily visit your group to run free awareness presentations, training workshops and/or coastal clean-up activities. This free opportunity is available anytime from Saturday 27 October to Thursday 8 November.

Following September’s successful Clean-up the Cook Islands and Rarotonga Rubbish Round-up projects, this is a great opportunity to gain detailed knowledge on the impacts litter has on our marine environments and reinforce the importance of litter prevention and clean-up work.

During our informative awareness presentation — that we have presented to over 55,000 people around the Pacific since 2008 — we use imagery and short films to build an understanding of the simple but common challenge of litter in the marine environment, and motivate attendees to work hands-on to look after their local stretch of coast. Our presentation takes around 30 minutes, with time for discussion at the end. Timings for the presentation are flexible and can be tailored to suit whatever time you have available.

For those that are interested in learning more, we can run a 45 minute training workshop immediately following our awareness presentation: passing on skills to help teach others about litter in the marine environment. Resources will also be provided for ongoing use, including short films, Powerpoint Presentations, planning documents, safety information, beach clean-up data collection sheets, posters and online tools.

We have our own presentation equipment including computer, projector, screen and speakers, so you will not need to arrange these for our visit. For coastal clean-ups with your group, we can help with planning and can provide rubbish sacks, gloves and safety equipment.

To find out more or confirm your involvement in this project, please email Project Manager Camden Howitt on [email protected] or call (682) 78218 and we will be in touch to confirm arrangements. We look forward to hearing from you.

Project contact

Camden Howitt
Project Manager
Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust
[email protected]
(682) 78218

More background

To coordinate a more effective project in Rarotonga we have been working with local governmental departments, organisations and community groups in both the planning and implementation phase of this project. This project is a pilot study that – if proven successful in Rarotonga – could be extended to outer island communities.

We have also partnered on this project with hugely popular band Shapeshifter, who are holding a concert in Rarotonga on Friday 9 November. The proceeds from this concert will go towards meeting costs for this project and future work in the Cook Islands.

A huge thank you in particular to National Environment Service, The Edgewater Resort & Spa, Island Car & Bike Hire, Muri Environment Care, WATSAN, Reef Shipping and our partners Lantern Insurance and Benefitz for your generous support of this project. Without the support of organisations like yours this project simply would not be possible.