Voluntary beach-cleaning events in Wanaka have exposed significant amounts of cigarette butts and plastic wrappers on the lake front, but organisers are confident the Wanaka community spirit will continue to support the clean-up efforts.
Speaking from Queenstown, Sea Shepherd area co-ordinator Rob Dickinson said the organisation had been granted a permit by the Queenstown Lakes District Council to set up a stall and play music during the beach cleans.
Beach cleans were now held every six weeks in Queenstown and Wanaka, but it was Wanaka’s community spirit that shone through, he said.
“Queenstown’s been quite tough, because it seems that the local people there, I’m not saying they don’t care, but they’ve got other things going on.
“But the Wanaka people have really come together on this and really supported us.
“For us it’s really rewarding to see these people who care.
“To see these volunteers come and help out is great.”
Beach cleans had revealed the extent of rubbish along the shoreline, including cigarette butts and small plastic wrappers.
Mr Dickinson said volunteers were trying to raise awareness about the amount of rubbish on the beach, which might not be easy to spot at first glance.
“We usually document it with photos and expose it.
“We separate everything from the cigarette butts just to show people how bad it really is and how much micro-stuff there is in there.
“Because people don’t see the small stuff .. it’s all the small stuff and the cigarette butts that are the main culprits.”
The Sea Shepherd stall, which was usually accompanied by music and a barbecue, also tried to raise awareness about reducing waste, he said.
If people could reduce the amount of plastic they bought, that would ultimately reduce the amount of plastic that ended up in the ocean, he said.
“The problem starts at the top.
“If you’ve got no plastic then you’ve got nothing to pick up.
He hoped signs could be installed on the beach and more ashtrays made available for smokers to try to reduce the number of cigarette butts on the beach.
“A lot of people just don’t think because they’ve got this habit of dropping stuff or not putting it in the right place.
“We talk about how important it is to keep our lakes and rivers clean because it eventually ends up in the ocean.
“If it ends up in the ocean then it ends up in the human food chain, if you’re eating fish.”
A range of people had volunteered their time at the last few events and he was confident numbers would continue to grow.
“The more people we get, the further we can spread, towards the rivers, get in among the car parking areas, not just the beach, because they’re pretty gross, as well.
“The more people, the better.”
Beach cleans are advertised on the Upper Clutha Trading Post Facebook group page and the QLDC also displays posters around the town.
The next event is on March 11.