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

Big news for Sustainable Coastlines comes today, with Co-founder and Programmes Director Camden Howitt announcing he is moving on from the charity after nearly 14 years of mahi for our oceans.

Since early 2009, Camden has been a driving force for solutions to ocean pollution. Alongside co-founder Sam Judd, Camden designed and delivered programmes that have removed 1.7 million litres of litter from coastlines, planted 330,000 trees to restore waterways, engaged 150,000 volunteers and provided education for ocean action to 250,000 people.

More recently, Camden spearheaded the 2018 launch of the charity’s newest, award-winning programme Litter Intelligence, training ‘citizen scientists’ at over 300 beaches nationwide to monitor and take action on marine litter and plastic pollution.

A passionate advocate for our moana and awa, Camden has delivered community-based environmental solutions for Sustainable Coastlines around Aotearoa and the Pacific. With his years of strategy, community engagement and programme design experience, Camden combines a deep connection with the outdoors with a drive for collaboration to build large-scale change. A regular contributor to national, regional and global dialogue on sustainability, Camden is an expert at creating innovative solutions that work.

Reflecting on his departure, Camden said that while it was a tough decision, the time was right and he leaves a legacy of well-established programmes and a great team to continue the mahi.

“I’m super excited about the next stage of my journey, and the opportunity to address some of the greatest sustainability challenges Aotearoa faces,” says Camden. “My love for our oceans, and my drive to protect them, is stronger than ever, and I’m committed to continuing to push for better outcomes for our moana.”

Camden (left) at a tree-planting event at Auckland’s Puhinui Reserve

While he is finishing up his Programmes Director role at Sustainable Coastlines, Camden will continue his ongoing mahi to solve plastic pollution through his membership of the Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance, as a Litter Intelligence Citizen Scientist, and through his daily actions.

Announcing Camden’s departure, Sustainable Coastlines Chair Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett said the Board was sad to see Camden move on, but is excited to see the contributions he will continue to make to regenerate te taiao.

“Camden has embodied a passion for restoring and protecting the natural beauty of our coastline. I would like to thank him for his significant contribution to the charity and we all wish him the greatest of success in the future,” says Walmsley-Bartlett.

Camden and the SC whānau at an event at The Flagship Education Centre

“I’m proud of everything our wonderful whānau has achieved over the years, and I consider myself lucky to have been surrounded by so many brilliant, passionate people along the way,” added Howitt.

“I want to thank our Sustainable Coastlines team, our Board, our unwavering partners and supporters, and our incredible network of volunteers who turn up time and time again. Without you Sustainable Coastlines could not have existed, but with you, I know it will continue to thrive.”

Media release: 7 July 2022

With more than 15,000 kilometres of coast, Aotearoa has one of the longest and most stunning stretches of coastline of any country. On a three monthly basis, Litter Intelligence groups across the country visit their local stretch of coastline to record waste findings. This Plastic Free July, award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines is celebrating the power of this data, and the trailblazing heroes who help collect it: citizen scientists. Now, the efforts of these dedicated individuals are contributing to a Wellbeing Indicator for Stats NZ.

“Plastic Free July is a great time to motivate the masses to be part of solutions to plastic pollution”, says Sustainable Coastlines Co-Founder Camden Howitt. “We created Litter Intelligence to inspire and inform better decisions for a world without litter, and we’re proud that our work with Stats NZ takes us another step forward for better solutions to the plastic crisis.”

Launched in 2018, Litter Intelligence is New Zealand’s first and only national beach litter database. The data collection methodology is based on United Nations Environment Program guidelines and was co-designed alongside the Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and the Department of Conservation. The detailed training, combined with user-friendly technology, allows environmental data to be submitted by communities at the highest standard, so it can be used by government reporting, which now include the Wellbeing Indicators for Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.

Litter Intelligence data collection in action.

“Stats NZ has partnered with Sustainable Coastlines over the past few years on Litter Intelligence, supporting good data management practice, and open data access,” says Stats NZ Environmental and Agricultural Statistics Senior Manager, Michele Lloyd.

“This data was first used as a case study in the Our Marine Environment 2019 report. I am pleased to see that this data will continue to be used to add value to Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa NZ. This is a great example of how working together with external partners can provide additional data to reduce data gaps for New Zealand.”

Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand was developed by Stats NZ as a source of measures for New Zealand’s wellbeing and aims to help monitor progress around social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing. The wellbeing indicators are built on international best practice, and are  tailored to New Zealand. Litter Intelligence‘s citizen science data is now informing Wellbeing Indicators, in particular the ‘Waste flows in waterways and coastal marine environments’ indicator which demonstrates the amount of waste discharged into waterways and coastal areas around NZ each year.

‘Citizen science’ refers to the public participation in scientific research — it is a non-traditional form of data collection and is already contributing significantly to the scientific community. Thanks to the citizen scientists involved in the Litter Intelligence programme, government agencies, businesses and communities now have better insights into the health of our coasts and therefore, the power to find appropriate solutions.

Marilyn Scott’s Litter Intelligence citizen science group, monitoring the Waitangi Estuary in Hawke’s Bay.

“This announcement shows the true power of citizen science. We’re incredibly proud that members of our community can contribute towards environmental reporting that informs better decision making,” says Howitt. “Thanks to the continued dedication and hard work of our citizen scientists, we’re now able to contribute to the wellbeing indicators of our own home, right here in Aotearoa”.  

Long-time citizen scientist Marilyn Scott says people often feel disempowered, when it comes to the health of the environment, but since taking the role of a citizen scientist she feels like she’s part of the solution. 

“Our citizen science group started in June 2019 and is made up of 20 dedicated individuals who look after the Waitangi Estuary in Hawke’s Bay. The beauty of this work is in seeing the efforts coming together throughout Aotearoa and the direct action that comes from it. Sure, you see disappointing things of course, like the countless pieces of single-use plastic, or the horrid oesophagus clips on our coasts but the great thing about this involvement, is the fact that there is a further layer here which is ironclad data that can be used for government reporting and policy change. It’s great to think we’re helping restore Papatūānuku and therefore part of a bigger picture, and I for one, am delighted to be involved”.

“We’re proud to celebrate Plastic Free July by acknowledging the mahi of our fellow Kiwis,” adds Howitt. Their dedication, commitment, and volunteering of their time – over 16,000 hours to date – is an epic contribution to the health of our moana”. 

Visit for more information 

To learn more about Litter Intelligence please visit:

This month, June 2022, the team at Sustainable Coastlines is thrilled to welcome Jennifer McKnight, our first international volunteer after a two-year hiatus due to border closures.

To celebrate the re-establishment of our IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarters) programme, and to recognise National Volunteer Week, 19–25 June, we chatted to Jennifer about her motivations for supporting Sustainable Coastlines, what she loves about Aotearoa, and her recommendations for Plastic Free July.

Jennifer at the Sustainable Coastlines education and events space, The Flagship in Tāmaki Makaurau’s Wynyard Quarter.

Hey Jennifer, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

“I’m from California, where I work as a tax accountant. I love travelling and spending time outdoors or at concerts when I can. In the past year I’ve been spending a lot of time at the climbing gym and taking kickboxing classes. A lot of my work time is spent sitting down, so any time off the clock I like to get out and move!”


What made you want to come to New Zealand?

“This is actually my third time here! I first came to New Zealand in 2015 when I was in my early twenties. That first trip really helped me to step out of my comfort zone — I got into all the outdoor activities on offer: rafting, ziplining, rappelling down waterfalls. I loved spending time in nature, and that carried through to my other travels and my life back home. But because this was where it all began, I keep wanting to return to New Zealand — the environment really resonated with me. It gave so much to me.”


What about the environment here resonates with you so much?

“It’s beautiful. It reminds me a bit of home, where there’s a bit of everything relatively close. I especially love the waterfalls and forests. I love it any time you can respectfully treat nature as your playground, and that’s very easy to do here.”


Where’s your favourite place in New Zealand?

“That’s so hard to say, it’s all so nice. On my first trip here, I went rafting in Rotorua down the Kaituna River. It was my first time white-water rafting; it was so fun, and the scenery was so beautiful. It sticks in my mind as one of the most pure experiences in my life. So yeah, I’d have to say the Kaituna River.”

A rapid on the Kaituna River.

What made you want to volunteer with Sustainable Coastlines?

“Because I’ve gotten so much from New Zealand’s natural environment, I really wanted to give back to it. I wanted to put some love back into a place that has already given me so much love, and the work SC is doing really falls in line with that.”


What kind of impact do you see Sustainable Coastlines as having?

“The other day we were laying out plants for a tree-planting day run alongside Auckland Council. There were 10,000 of them, which looked like a lot, and it was hard to imagine them all planted. We were at the planting the next day, and with all the volunteers, the trees were planted, no problem. So Sustainable Coastlines is obviously really good at bringing people together and making a collaborative impact. It’s really great for people to have the chance to work together as a community with a shared goal like that.”

“I know I’ll be back in New Zealand one day, and I’m looking forward to seeing those trees we planted all grown up. Which is also something that’s probably really satisfying for the locals.”

Te Hira Mayall-Nahi, Sustainable Coastlines’ IVHQ Coordinator, and Jennifer McKnight, at Puhinui Reserve in June 2022.

Plastic Free July is coming up — have you got any tips to share?

“It can be super hard to travel and be sustainable at the same time. You don’t have the convenience of your own dishes etcetera when you’re on a plane or other transport. The first thing I’d recommend to people is the simplest one: get a reusable drink bottle. It doesn’t take much work and can make a huge impact.

I would also say, vote with your dollars. Not everyone has the money to make sustainable choices, but if you have the ability to do it, the market will respond. It’s kind of like the vegan and vegetarian options that are in our supermarkets now compared with 10 or 11 years ago. Because companies saw the demand, we now have a great range. I think the same thing is happening with genuinely eco-friendly alternatives. If we vote with our dollars and tell the companies what we want, we’re making a difference.”

In January 2022, Emma Dent announced her decision to step down as chairperson for Sustainable Coastlines. This April, Emma passes her position to the extremely capable Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett. See below for CEO Josh Borthwick’s full announcement.

Emma Dent

Change of chairperson announcement

28 Jan 2022


Today I would like to relay the news that Emma Dent is stepping down as chairperson of the Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust. After four years as our chair through an unprecedented period of growth, it’s timely for Emma to take stock and review what’s next. Emma will be focusing her time on her role as director of development with The Nature Conservancy, Aotearoa New Zealand.

I’d personally like to thank Emma for inducting me into the organisation as CEO and supporting me and my team through Covid-19. Emma is incredibly smart, composed and compassionate. I’m going to miss her terribly and the SC crew can’t thank her enough for her dedication, commitment and support of our charity. Emma will always have a special place in the SC whānau and we know she won’t be a stranger.

Every change creates opportunity and I’m excited to announce Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett as our new Chair, effective April 2022. Sam’s been a board member for three years and is also one of our original Litter Intelligence volunteer leaders. As a trained botanist Samantha has dedicated her career to helping businesses and organisations care for our environment. As environmental and sustainability manager, Samantha actively led, implemented and expanded produce company T&G’s sustainability framework. Now at Circularity, she gets to consult to a wide variety of organisations to design, develop and measure best practice environmental strategies to design out waste, keep materials in flow and regenerate living systems.

Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett

Sam will be supported by a formal vice-chair position, filled by Grant Biggar, who having spent several decades building investment and fin-tech businesses around the world, is now based in New Zealand and is focused on improving New Zealand for future generations while also remaining active in early stage private company investing. Grant has a passion for watersports and the coastline and currently serves as chair of the finance, audit and remuneration committee for Sustainable Coastlines. 

Other trustees, Craig Fisher and Abbie Reynolds remain in their positions and provide an incredible wealth of experience across governance, finance, conservation, climate change and sustainability. We are also actively recruiting for three new board trustees with backgrounds in charitable revenue development, product technology development and / or  a deep understanding of te ao Māori, mātauranga Māori and deep connections with iwi / hapū and Pasifika communities. 


Ngā mihi, 

 Josh Borthwick
Sustainable Coastlines


Josh Borthwick
021 823 380

 Emma Dent
027 706 5927

 Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett
021 918 053

Camden Howitt wins Sustainability Superstar Award


Camden Howitt is Co-Founder and Programmes Director of multi award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines. He is also a founding member of Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance and an Edmund Hillary Fellow. He is a passionate advocate for our oceans and a driving force behind community solutions.

Since 2008, Sustainable Coastlines has delivered large-scale coastal clean-ups, education and data collection activities around Aotearoa New Zealand. Camden leads strategy, fundraising and design. He manages national and international stakeholder relationships. He also raises the profile of the cause through media and speaking opportunities.

Camden on a remote Fiordland beach conducting a Litter Intelligence survey in May 2021.

A regular contributor to national, regional and global dialogue on marine litter, Camden relentlessly pushes for innovative solutions. He has twice addressed the United Nations at its headquarters in New York, and presented at the United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya.

Camden has devoted 12 years to designing, delivering, refining and scaling Sustainable Coastlines’ work to connect more people to nature and inspire positive change. Without his communication and influencing skills, the organisation would not have achieved the level of recognition and influence it has around Aotearoa New Zealand. His dedication makes a difference to communities, government policy and our environment every day.

Congratulations to all the other Sustainable Business Awards finalists and winners. See the full list here.

Government continues support for groundbreaking litter data
on the build-up of plastic in our environment


New Zealand’s first national coastal litter database, Litter Intelligence, was first launched in 2018 by Sustainable Coastlines, as part of a three-year deed with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE). In light of the success of the programme, the government has awarded a one-year extension to continue the much needed data collection to help inspire action and work towards a litter-free Aotearoa.

Litter Intelligence is a long-term initiative to help solve the plastic-pollution problem and uses innovative, open-source technology to collect data, provide powerful insights and inspire action. It is helping to build a better understanding of the plastic problem, and has already been used for individual actions, community-led solutions, informing policy and environmental reporting.

Sustainable Coastlines engages with communities around the country and thoroughly trains citizen scientists to collect data on litter while simultaneously inspiring solutions through its nationwide school education programmes and interactive website,

Litter Intelligence programme manager, Shawn Elise Tierney says the organisation is really proud of the work they’ve achieved since Litter Intelligence launched in 2018. To date, Litter Intelligence has completed 1,000 surveys of beach, freshwater & stormwater sites across 300 survey areas through 12,535 volunteer hours. It also won the Tech for Good Award at the 2020 Sustainable Business Awards.

“We cannot improve what we do not measure. We launched with the Ministry for the Environment’s brilliant support, and here we continue to work together in light of the successes the programme continues to achieve, time and time again”, adds Shawn Elise.

Community day, Howick, Eastern Beach, Auckland 15 June 2021
Photo credit: Irena Cima Photography

Earlier this year, Litter Intelligence data was used to help inform decision making on the government’s plan to tackle problem plastics and single-use plastic items and provided key evidence to prioritise this proposal.

Of the programme, Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment has previously said, “The data set that is being provided by Sustainable Coastlines is 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.”

Litter Intelligence’s data collection methodology is based on United Nations guidelines and was co-designed alongside the Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and the Department of Conservation. The detailed training, combined with user-friendly technology, allows environmental data to be submitted by communities at the highest standard, so it can be used by government agencies for national and international reporting, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The additional funding provided by MfE will enable the charity to continue supporting existing volunteer groups to collect data all over the country, including schools participating in the Litter Intelligence Education Programme (LIEP). It will also continue its quality control measures to ensure the data is rigorous enough for governmental reporting on the state of the environment. Sustainable Coastlines will also continue to offer LIEP Professional Development to educators and run ‘train the trainer’ workshops to expand the programme’s reach.

The funding will also allow for new workstreams to explore how to increase accessibility for tangata whenua, research and develop workshops on using data to take action to effect change, and collaborate with existing interest groups to facilitate data collection for freshwater and stormwater locations. Funding will also support ongoing tech costs.

“The ultimate goal of Litter Intelligence is that data is used to inspire action — at all levels: schools, policy, community infrastructure, product design, etc.,”, adds Shawn Elise.

“The single-use plastic ban announced earlier this year is a good example of this on a government scale but we are also interested in communities using their own local data to effect change in their own neighbourhoods. We thank the Ministry for the Environment for their trust in our platform and cause, and we look forward to another step closer to a litter-free Aotearoa”.

To check out the status of your local beach please visit:

To learn more about Sustainable Coastlines please visit:

If you’re interested in learning more about the Litter Intelligence programme or becoming a citizen scientist, please visit 

For enquiries and interviews, contact Shawn Elise Tierney;
[email protected] mb 022 410 8340

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

Charity Sustainable Coastlines’ annual ANZ Love Your Water Tour, is a series of native tree planting events across Aotearoa, which sees Sustainable Coastlines working with community members to restore their local awa. This year the mahi will have a strong holistic approach, focusing on the entire ecosystem of the river, protecting biodiversity and the species that live there and enhancing the well-being of the communities that surround it.

This broader ecosystem approach is in response to our modern lifestyle that has seen us become increasingly disconnected from nature and from each other, which is leading to alarming rates of biodiversity loss and having a negative impact on our mental health.

Biodiversity loss is falling more steeply in freshwater ecosystems than in other ecosystems, which is starkly obvious in Aotearoa where 76% of our native freshwater fish are classified as threatened or at risk of extinction. This scale of loss and the constant narrative about the declining state of the environment is leading to ‘eco-anxiety’, as people worry about the fate of our planet and future generations.

But Sustainable Coastlines believes there is hope, by partnering with and supporting local communities to care for their local ecosystem and each other. This not only tackles the problem itself, but also helps to alleviate the sense of futility people can feel in the face of these issues.

Anxiety NZ, a charity who provides treatment and support to people with anxiety, suggests building personal and community resilience, cultivating active hope and joining groups of like-minded people can help with ‘eco-anxiety’. Volunteering with an environmental group, such as Sustainable Coastlines and their freshwater restoration programme, is a great way of doing all three of these things.

The catchments the charity is focusing on are the Whau River and Puhinui Stream in Auckland; Waihou-Piako catchments in the Waikato; Porirua Stream in Wellington; and the Waimakariri in Canterbury.

“Our work is so much more than planting trees,” says Camden Howitt, co-founder and programmes director at Sustainable Coastlines.

“Communities of people, birds, insects and fish call freshwater catchments home, and they all rely on each other to thrive. So by working to restore these freshwater ecosystems we provide locals with opportunities to connect with their community.”

“As people connect with nature and each other it helps alleviate stress, it gives them purpose and something positive to be part of. At our events we see first hand how volunteering and working with others provides a sense of connection, and increases optimism and hope. We call it the ‘high-five effect’.”

Sustainable Coastlines’ Love Your Water programme prioritises activities within the community that go beyond tree planting, such as sourcing native eco-sourced stems from local nurseries, water-quality education with schools in the area, community riparian planting days where locals can volunteer to restore their own awa, weeding and releasing activities and citizen science water monitoring. These activities are designed to connect people to nature and each other, while driving better outcomes for biodiversity, communities and our own well-being.

“We’re proud to support Sustainable Coastlines’ mahi in restoring waterways throughout Aotearoa”, says Antonia Watson, ANZ New Zealand CEO.

“This partnership allows us to contribute to environmental sustainability in our communities and it’s a great way for our people to get outside and connect with te taiao (the natural environment) and each other.”

Sustainable Coastlines seeks to get as many people as possible involved in this positive solution both for their own health and the health of our waterways and native species.

“You can join the movement by volunteering at one of our tree planting events or by contacting us directly to learn more about water quality monitoring opportunities”, adds Howitt.

“We invite all school groups, communities groups, corporates and individuals to get in touch with us, to find out how they can support this mahi in their region”.

Register now for an event at


People have never been more concerned about the plight of our ocean, and sadly, they’re right to be worried — our moana needs our help. Award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines led an expedition to some of Aotearoa’s most remote beaches to reveal the shocking state of our plastic pollution problem. In light of the findings, it is calling on all Kiwis to take action this World Ocean Day, on Tuesday, 8 June.

World Ocean Day is about coming together to honour and celebrate our shared moana, with a special emphasis on education and awareness. Globally an estimated 11 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean every year, and without urgent action, that amount will nearly triple by 2040. 

Unfortunately, New Zealand’s coastlines do not escape the plastic problem. Sustainable Coastlines was able to quantify litter density at some of New Zealand’s most remote beaches, during an expedition in Fiordland last week. The team were there to set-up survey sites as part of its nationwide litter monitoring programme, Litter Intelligence. In only ten 100 metre stretches of shore, the charity removed 1,586 items totalling nearly half a tonne, 93% of which were made of plastic.

“Despite the isolation, the number-one item found was consistent with the top offender across over 200 survey sites nationwide: Hard plastic fragments. Plastic fragments are ubiquitous in our marine environment due to our addiction to plastic products, and mismanagement of them before, during and after their useful lives,” says Sustainable Coastlines Co-Founder Camden Howitt.

Significant numbers of consumer plastics were found, with plastic bottles the second most common item on Fiordland coastlines, at over 30 times the national average. Large quantities of fisheries-related debris were also washed up, again at levels over 30 times the national average. At 93%, the proportion of plastics found was far higher than the 75% national average — a reminder of the longevity of plastics and their propensity to move long distances on ocean currents.

“Many Kiwis would expect Fiordland’s coastlines to be 100% pure, to be as pristine as they should be,” says Howitt. “Instead these remote spots provide key insights into what the problem would look like nationwide without local action.” Everyday, caring Kiwis walk their local stretch of coastline and do their bit to clean-up. Even in Fiordland, stretches of the coast are cleaned up annually by the Southern Coastal Charitable Trust, who helped Sustainable Coastlines to identify accessible beaches.This is encouraging, but more mahi is needed to cut off the problem at the source by avoiding single-use plastics and preventing plastics from entering our oceans. 

The good news is, the needle is shifting on public attitudes towards waste. According to Colmar Brunton’s Better Futures 2021 report, out of the top ten concerns for Kiwis, three revolve around plastic, waste and landfill. These are clearly common concerns for Kiwis, and through Sustainable Coastlines programmes people can connect with these issues, roll up their sleeves, and do something about it. Howitt calls on Kiwis to do their bit to protect the places they love: “Take action for our moana this World Ocean Day. Change one habit, one behaviour, or one product from your everyday life and reduce your plastic footprint.”

The Fiordland clean-up and survey expedition is part of an ongoing effort established through initial funding from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund, to gain an accurate picture of litter across Aotearoa to help optimise and scale solutions. “We believe that we cannot manage what we do not measure, and this programme provides evidence to inspire data-driven decision-making at all levels to solve our plastic problem,” says Howitt. For full results from the Fiordland litter surveys, and from over 200 other sites around Aotearoa, visit


At the end of 2020 the Sustainable Coastlines team farewelled team-member and friend Fletcher Sunde. He’s done everything from coordinating large-scale events and inspiring youngsters in schools to fixing loose planks at the Flagship and working on Litter Intelligence in its early days. This year, in his role as operations director, he’s helped to keep our waka afloat through turbulent waters. Fletch’s contribution to SC has been invaluable.

We’re sad to say goodbye to Fletch, who has been a well-known face of our organisation for more than four years. His ability to build close relationships with the community and his great leadership skills are truly valued. Fletcher’s presence of mind in even the most stressful situation is a skillset he’s shared with the team through his introduction of Wellness Wednesdays. We’ll miss his calming presence and sarcastic wit.

Fletcher is leaving to pursue his dreams and sail off into the sunset on the yacht he’s been restoring for the last four years. Luckily for us, he’s already agreed to stay on as part-time Flagship handyman — it seems like we’re a difficult organisation to shake off!

Best wishes and fine winds, Fletch.