Clean break

Why th­ese young Ki­wis have their hands full in Hawaii

The New Zealand Herald - - Business -

Agroup of young Ki­wis have taken their cru­sade to clean up beaches to Hawaii.

They’re part of the week­end’s global ef­fort to pick up some of the eight mil­lion tonnes of rub­bish that is es­ti­mated to be dumped into oceans and water­ways.

At the James Campbell Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, eight young Ki­wis are pick­ing up trash. They’ve been se­lected by a New Zealand non-profit group, the Sea Clean­ers, for a week-long stay in Hawaii, with the help of Hawai­ian Air­lines and the Hawai­ian Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion.

They’ve come at a good time. Dur­ing the last fort­night Hawaii’s coast has taken a past­ing from Hur­ri­cane Lane and a near-miss from Trop­i­cal Storm Olivia, throw­ing up swells and rub­bish from around the Pa­cific on to its beau­ti­ful beaches.

At the refuge, there are seals and birds, in­clud­ing New Zealand-bound god­wits.

The Ki­wis are mainly school-age vol­un­teers from the up­per North Is­land and from a va­ri­ety of back­grounds. And what they’ve seen dur­ing the past few days has been an eye-opener.

The north­east tip of Hawaii can be a mag­net for swell but also buoys, nets and traps from fish­ing boats, right down to the tiny nur­dles — tiny beads of plas­tic raw ma­te­rial.

Char­lie Thomas, 16, from Red Beach, has been clean­ing beaches for more than three years. With the other Sea Clean­ers, she’s been col­lect­ing up to 10 cu­bic me­tres a day from the re­serve. She’s seen a Hawai­ian monk seal in a nest of plas­tic but couldn’t go near the an­i­mal.

“Com­ing here for the first time and not be­ing able to leave with all of the plas­tic is one of the most heart­break­ing things I’ve ever done,” she said. “It’s been such a raw and emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Dur­ing this week, the Sea Clean­ers will do a se­ries of clean-ups in con­junc­tion with non-gov­ern­ment or­gan­i­sa­tions, schools and other com­mu­nity groups.

About an hour fur­ther south on the US state’s most pop­u­lous is­land, Hawai­ian Air­lines’ di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity re­la­tions, Deb­bie Nakanelua-Richards is with the car­rier’s “Team Kokua” at Waimanalo Beach pick­ing up trash. The 200-plus team of vol­un­teers are from dif­fer­ent parts of the air­line and work­ing with oth­ers from the Bank of Hawaii and the Sus­tain­able Coast­lines or­gan­i­sa­tion.

The beach clean-up is spe­cial. There’s a deep spir­i­tual tie to the ocean — Hawai­ians have been mas­ter nav­i­ga­tors through the ages and its roy­als started surf­ing 1000 years ago.

“We’re sur­rounded by ocean — it’s ex­tremely pow­er­ful — it’s a part of our ex­is­tence here in th­ese is­lands — it’s heal­ing, it’s in­spir­ing, it’s re­flec­tive of the peo­ple who got here be­fore,” says Nakanelua-Richards, a for­mer Miss Hawaii who’s been with the air­line for nearly 40 years.

“The ocean is re­ally spe­cial to all is­land peo­ple.”

Waimanalo Beach is a tree-fringed 6km strip of white sand. But look more closely and you see in­sid­i­ous mi­croplas­tics that have to be sieved from the sand.

“We have to elim­i­nate those things from our lifestyle. Then one day, hope­fully, we will go to the beach and en­joy it, not have to clean it up. We look at vis­i­tors and wel­come them into our home. It’s re­ally im­por­tant for them to come to a place that is not only re­ally safe but is free of de­bris.”

The east-fac­ing shore or wind­ward side of Hawaii is where much of the de­bris washes up. Co-founder and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Sus­tain­able Coast­lines Kahi Pac­caro says most of it comes from fish­ing boats out catch­ing to sus­tain what he says is Hawaii’s in­sa­tiable ap­petite for poke — raw tuna.

Pac­caro, a surfer, de­scribes the mi­croplas­tics as be­ing like “plas­tic con­fetti” — hard to spot un­less it’s cling­ing to your feet.

On the snaky coastal drive be­tween Team Kokua and the Sea Clean­ers, you pass Kualoa Ranch, Hol­ly­wood’s “back­lot of Hawaii,” where movies and TV shows, in­clud­ing Hawaii Five0, Lost, Kong: Skull Is­land and Ju­manji have been filmed.

Sea Clean­ers leader Hay­den Smith has a sea skip­pers ticket and was a pi­o­neer of a com­mer­cial ma­rine lit­ter col­lec­tion con­cept in Auck­land City since 2002.

He has more than 15 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence on the wa­ter as a con­trac­tor to the Water­care Har­bour Clean-Up Trust and has di­rected the co-or­di­na­tion of more than 130,000 vol­un­teer hours.

Set up more than 15 years ago, Sea Clean­ers has been scoop­ing up rub­bish from North Is­land water­ways and beaches, re­mov­ing 41 mil­lion dif­fer­ent pieces of trash rang­ing from $20 notes to a bot­tle of mer­cury.

He helped se­lect those on the Hawaii mis­sion. Be­sides Char­lie Thomas there are Ede Bird, from Michael Park School, Ri­ley Hath­away from Matakana Col­lege, Cee Jay Maitai who went to Man­gere Col­lege, Joe McLough­lin from Kel­ston Boy’s High School, John Com­mis­saris now at Otago Univer­sity, Laith Ham­mond from Kings Col­lege, and Te-Ariki Waipouri-Rerekura from the Far North.

New Zealand’s Con­sul Gen­eral in Honolulu, Karena Lyons, is also in­volved. She says it is a way of shar­ing this coun­try’s en­vi­ron­men­tal val­ues. She wants to see the Sea Clean­ers model in other is­land na­tions in­clud­ing Palau and the Mar­shall Is­lands. “Bit by bit, beach by beach we’ll clean up the Pa­cific.”

The Her­ald trav­elled cour­tesy of Hawai­ian Air­lines and the Hawai­ian Tourism Or­gan­i­sa­tion

Photo / Brett Phibbs

Char­lie Thomas, 16, from Red Beach, Auck­land.

Photo / Brett Phibbs

Hawai­ian Air­lines’ Deb­bie Nakanelu­aRichards helps the young­sters dur­ing the clean-up project at Waimanalo Beach, Hawaii.

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