One question I get asked by people when I tell them about volunteering is: Doesn’t it make you angry to see beautiful parts of our harbour cluttered with trash?
Deliberate and illegal dumps do, i’ll admit. I have come across them sporadically during volunteering with SEA CLEANERS. Ben and Hayden, I imagine, come across dozens a month.
But most rubbish I pick up is not of the deliberate dumping kind. At least I hope not. So it’s hard to get too angry when you know that somewhere down the line someone has picked up your own carelessly discarded rubbish: whether it’s been blown out of your car or fallen out of your pocket as you pull out your hand.
As mentioned in previous posts, much of the rubbish that gets plucked out of receptacles by the wind and thrown about will sooner or later get washed down Auckland’s storm drains and waterslide out into the harbour. Head out onto the water on the morning after a brutal rain storm and see how much more debris is out there.
Ben and Hayden bring up the storm drains a fair amount, but I hadn’t seen one first hand. Today I would.
We started, as ever, at Pier U2. It was just Ben and I out on the Phil Warren II. After the skipper had done his paperwork we headed into the city’s wharf’s, sweeping through Waitemata’s most heavily trafficked waters.
There was some evidence of the previous day’s triathlon, which took place along the harbour front (Team Pacific Rowers were entrants, check out our stats here). Unfortunately that evidence was in the form of balloons bobbing about on the water.
After a quick dash into the Downtown Mall to get a coffee and muffin Ben decided we would head across the harbour, anchor Phil Warren II in the deeper water and kayak into Shoal Bay.
The water in the bay was shallow, but rising. We headed towards the motorway and kayaked under the bridge onto the west side of Highway 1 and into the shin shredding mangroves and onto the thick, slopping mud they covered.
After a few minutes rummaging I saw it. A concrete pipe pointing straight into the mangrove beds and at its mouth and beyond, mounds of plastic trash. And it wasn’t just one, there were perhaps four or five, including one that was two or three times the size of the others.
Ben pointed out the rocks placed at the mouth of the big pipe, designed, it seems, to catch anything that was coming out. It appeared a woeful attempt.
The rubbish trapped in the mangroves and mud was difficult to retrieve and if we did manage to untangle it, it was heavy from the mud and the water. We filled a few bags with this, but concentrated on the drier stuff. And there was plenty of it.
In fact, we plucked about 1000 litres-plus out of the high tide line tucked behind Highway 1.
Ben retrieved the kayaks and we loaded one with the rubbish and towed it with the other. The 20 minute kayak back to the boat was draining, but a quick swim in the harbour refreshed, and cleaned off the mud in which we were caked.