4.3 mil­lion litres and count­ing

Western Leader - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JACKSON THOMAS

He started off pick­ing up plas­tic bot­tles in a kayak. Now, Hay­den Smith has a fleet of three boats that are pulling up to 6000 litres of rub­bish a day out of our wa­ter­ways.

The Ti­ti­rangi res­i­dent had his work recog­nised on Fe­bru­ary 22, tak­ing out the Lo­cal Hero of the Year award.

‘‘We have pulled out 4.3 mil­lion litres of rub­bish in to­tal since 2002 which is great, but there is a long way to go,’’ Smith said.

His or­gan­i­sa­tion, The Sea Clean­ers Trust, put their first boat in the wa­ter 15 years ago.

They head out every morn­ing and typ­i­cally ‘‘have at least one vol­un­teer on board ev­ery­day’’.

Smith said he has al­ways had a love for the out­doors and a pas­sion for main­tain­ing our del­i­cate ecosys­tem.

‘‘I was work­ing in the trans­port in­dus­try in 2002 and it just wasn’t re­ally for me. My wife told me to hand in my no­tice and think back to when I was a child. What did I used to do for fun.

She said if I could com­bine that fun with em­ploy­ment I would never re­ally work an­other day in my life so that is ex­actly what I done.’’

He landed a job lead­ing groups on kayak tours from Ta­maki Dr over to Ran­gi­toto Is­land. It was there he says where he first iden­ti­fied ‘‘the need to clean’’.

‘‘One day we had a can­cel­la­tion so I just went out into the har­bour by my­self and it was there, un­der the har­bour bridge, that I saw it,’’ Smith said.

‘‘Rub­bish and plas­tic just stream­ing out of the var­i­ous wa­ter­ways. I couldn’t un­der­stand why no­body was out there clean­ing it up so that was all the in­vi­ta­tion I needed to get started.’’

With fund­ing from the then Waitakere City Coun­cil and a re­tired ves­sel do­nated by the Ports of Auck­land, Sea Clean­ers was born and Smith be­gan pulling rub­bish out of both the Manukau and Waitem­ata har­bours.

To­day, an av­er­age haul for the team of six is roughly 18 cu­bic me­tres of rub­bish a day across the three boats which is about 90 wheel­bar­row loads.

Smith said it is a lot to be re­mov­ing so reg­u­larly, but there are signs of im­prove­ment.

‘‘The Waitem­ata in par­tic­u­lar has im­proved ten-fold. Just driv­ing around out there now you can re­ally no­tice the dif­fer­ence.’’

Smith says that he was hum­bled to re­ceive the Lo­cal Hero of the Year award, and hopes that it can help spread the word.

Hay­den Smith says ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to do their part when it comes to pol­lu­tion is­sues.

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