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Clean, green, Coast?

'People think the East Coast is this untouched, pristine place . . . it's not'.

Thousands of pieces of rubbish wash up on the beach at Tikapa— where the Waiapu River meets the Pacific Ocean — every time there is heavy rain on the East Coast, locals say.

Tikapa road resident Graeme Atkins, his whanau and people from Te Whakaoratia o te Mana o Waiapu Project cleaned up half of the beach on Thursday.

The rubbish washed up after heavy rain hit the East Coast two weeks ago.

“Whenever there is a heavy rain warning I think about how much rubbish will wash up on the beach,” Mr Atkins said.

“My whanau and I have been tidying up this beach for more than 20 years. It pisses me off that this happens.”

Mr Atkins and his whanau went to the beach before low tide at 8am this week to start cleaning up as much as they could.

At about 9.30 a crew from Te Whakaoratia o te Mana o Waiapu Project showed up with a roll of 50 black rubbish bags, ready to help.

“Fifty black rubbish bags weren't enough to clean our beach,” said Mr Atkins.

“We had to empty each bag many times and refill them over and over again.

“If we didn't have the crew helping us my whanau and I would have spent the next six or more weekends tidying the beach. I can't thank them enough.”

“It was an emotional day for me when the brothers and sisters showed up. People comment on Facebook, saying they will help, but they never show up.”

All of the rubbish was locally-derived, Mr Atkins said.

“If people don't believe this is happening then the best thing they can do is come and help and I'll show them. There is rubbish dumped along State Highway 35 and down banks near the Waiapu River.

“People think the East Coast is this untouched, pristine place . . . it's not.”

Mr Atkins said he was at a loss as to why people dumped rubbish.

“There's no excuse for this”.

The rubbish collected on the beach at Tikapa was taken to the Waiapu landfill and disposed of at no charge.

Gisborne District Council offered gloves, sanitiser, bags and masks for the clean-up.

Those cleaning the beach collected over 4000 plastic bottles by lunchtime, then gave up counting.

They also picked up 73 pole sleeves, 56 tyres, 12 nine-kilogram gas bottles, more than 700 Steinlager bottles, and 86 20-litre containers — some with transmission oil, diesel and petroleum products still inside.

Single-use plastics were the most common rubbish on the beach.

“By educating children about the impacts of rubbish on the environment we can create generational change to stop this from happening,” Mr Atkins said.

A load of rubbish: A trailer-load of rubbish collected from the beach at Tikapa north of Ruatoria — just one of the many loads taken to the Waiapu landfill. The rubbish washes up on the beach after heavy rain events. Pictures by Graeme Atkins
‘There's no excuse for this': A sample of the rubbish that washes up on the beach at Tikapa after heavy rain events — the latest two weeks ago. Tikapa Road resident Graeme Atkins and his whanau have been picking up rubbish from the beach for 20 years. Had it not been for the help of people from Te Whakaoratia o te Mana o Waiapu Project, the latest clean-up would have taken them at least six weekends. Mr Atkins says the rubbish is 'locally-derived'.
Rubbish everywhere: Thousands of pieces of rubbish washed up on Tikapa beach, including gas bottles, tyres, and containers used for petroleum products. Tikapa beach is where the Waiapu river meets the South Pacific Ocean.