Aotea/Great Barrier Island Coastal Clean-up | Sustainable Coastlines

Event impacts

Event Details

Apr 2009
Apr 2009

Clean-up volunteers removed 2.8 tonnes of rubbish from the isolated Aotea/Great Barrier Island beaches.

We were overwhelmed with the success of our massive coastal clean-up event on Aotea/Great Barrier Island. Hundreds of volunteers tackled the rugged coastlines on foot, from boats and in kayaks to remove over 2.8 tonnes of rubbish from the remote island – a true show of their passion to keep New Zealand beautiful.

On Friday the 3rd, around 230 children, parents and teachers from low-decile schools, along with hoards of young locals, cleaned the beaches of Tryphena Harbour. This was made possible by the Lion Foundation.

Then on Saturday, a second ferry-load of volunteers from Auckland teamed-up with the crew of the Spirit of New Zealand, members of the Navy, fishermen and masses of locals to continue the large-scale clean-up. This trip was made possible by sponsorship from Sanford Sustainable Seafoods and Pump water.

Event Director Sam Judd first saw the rubbish problem on Great Barrier while working as a commercial free-diver. After running a similarly successful event in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, he and several other volunteers – collectively known as Sustainable Coastlines – organised this massive event, all in the space of six weeks, from the offices of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Society. Great Barrier Island was chosen as a perfect example of a pristine location that needs to be preserved for their inaugural NZ event.

After only two days, enough rubbish was collected from the island to fill the baggage hold of the 250-seat ferry: around 30,000 litres in the hold and more stacked on top.

Early on in the planning of the event it was decided that all rubbish collected was to be ferried back to Auckland, to ensure that locals weren’t left to deal with the aftermath and to allow VISY recycling to conduct a comprehensive audit of the items collected.

Experts from the Waitemata Harbour Clean-up Trust estimate that 85-90% of the waste that ends up on Great Barrier Island’s beaches comes off the streets of Auckland, down through the stormwater systems, and is blown across Hauraki Gulf by the prevailing south-westerly winds. Fittingly, the tonnes of waste that were removed from the beaches of the island have now been returned to whence they came.

And it doesn’t end there. There is a core crew going back out to work with locals and hit the areas that the event couldn’t finish. They will bring it back to Auckland city, where on arrival they are holding a huge fundraising party. Further projects are already in the pipeline, with The Ha’apai Islands of Tonga this spring and Gisborne after New Years Eve.

For more information, images, photos and footage (we have stacks to share from the event) or to offer your support, please contact us at [email protected]

Thanks to all of our sponsors for their support. Without your help what we achieved wouldn’t have been possible.

Event Details

We struck while the iron was still hot and put on a cracking fundraising party in Auckland, to make more coastal clean-up events possible. Thanks to everyone who came along to support the cause and join us to TOAST OUR COAST. The party featured:

  • The Shades
  • Atsushi & The Moisties
  • Thomas Sahs (The Honey Claws Junkbox)
  • DJ Benn Morrison (Funk, Soul, Hip Hop)
  • DJ Phil O (Dubstep/Drum and Bass)
  • PHD: DJ’s Subtrak & Lowphonix (Drum and Bass)

Thanks to our awesome sponsors for providing drinks and prizes, including the EPIC Jagermeister surfboard below.

Event impacts

Event Details

Sep 2009
Sep 2009

On Saturday the 5th and Sunday the 6th, we ran this event as part of Clean Up New Zealand Week. Several of our team along with a few other keen volunteers went out to Rangitoto Island with Hayden and Ben from the Waitemata Harbour Clean-up Trust. We found a lot of trash. Despite our experiences thus far picking up rubbish, it was still quite incredible to see just how much rubbish makes it through Auckland’s stormwater drains and ends up hugging the rocks, crevices and bushes in and around the high-tide mark. Even more concerning was the thick concentration of plastics called ‘Mermaid’s Tears’ or ‘Nurdles’ that we found by the handful all along the coast. Check out the links below for a good intro to the effects these nurdles have on our marine environment (and dinner…).

Over the two days we picked up several boatloads of rubbish (and as many of the nurdles as we could painstakingly hand-pick), and transported it all back to the Waitemata Harbour Clean-up Trust mothership by kayak, and then on to the mainland for recycling and proper disposal.

Event impacts

Event Details

This event was massive. Young and old joined forces to collect a colossal pile of rubbish from every corner of Foa and Lifuka Islands, with over 3,000 people getting involved from a total population of around 4,500. Over 120 truckloads of plastic, steel, aluminum, glass and all other manner of waste were sorted for recyclables, bagged, and loaded into containers kindly transported to Pangai Harbour by Reef Shipping’s Southern Tiare. Eight shipping containers were filled with trash: around 50 tonnes was collected in total on the one day event. From here, all the rubbish will be shipped to Tongatapu, sorted for recycling, and the remainder sent to the properly managed landfill there.

We are now helping the local community and the Tongan government – who has been supportive of the initiative since it began – to achieve the ultimate goal of the project: to implement a waste management strategy for the area. This is set to become a formula for other small island states in Tonga and the Pacific.




The Ha’apai’s are a very special place: a breeding ground for humpback whales and incredibly beautiful, isolated volcanic island group that is well off the beaten track.

However – due to their low lying topography, the islands are unsuitable for landfill, and build-up of rubbish poses a major threat to the local environment and the health of local people. The event is making an example of a system that could alleviate waste management challenges, with New Zealand’s Reef Shipping sending eight containers to remove the rubbish from the event.

Emily Penn, who has been living in Pangai for three months working with the local community in preparation for this day, explains what the large scale cleanup event and education program strives to achieve. “Firstly we aim to develop an understanding among the community about the negative effects improper disposal of rubbish has on local health and environment. Secondly we are exposing the problem in Ha’apai in order to establish a long term waste management solution.”

Rubbish provides a breeding ground for mosquitos, which transmit the vector born diseases such as dengue fever and Elephantitis that affect many areas of the Pacific. 97% of rubbish is burned in the Ha’apai Islands, with the plastic content releasing dioxins (which are known to cause severe health effects such as birth defects and liver cancer) in close proximity to people’s dwelling areas.