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Rubbish 'depressing' say Taupō clean up crew

By Mulholland, Jo | 20 Feb 2020 10:30

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A Waikato River clean up in advance of February's annual Huka River Swim has spurred calls for people to stop treating the river as a dump - including those participating in free river floats.

Four shopping trolleys, a large stormwater grate, the remains of a timber dinghy, nine tyres, deflated blow up toys (used to float down the river) and numerous other items, including a lot of broken beer bottles, were retrieved by a crew of volunteers, including two divers recently.

The clean up, co-ordinated by swim event organiser Peter Cook, hoped to clear rubbish from the upper reaches of the Waikato River between what is known as The Lagoon and Hipapatua Reserve, or Reid's Farm, but difficulty in retrieving the shopping trolleys and large steel grate meant the divers had run out of air by the time they got to Cherry Island. 

"As such the clean-up past Cherry Island was limited," said Cook.

 

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Divers entering the water on the Waitangi Day clean up.

He estimated the group only picked up half the rubbish that was visible.

One of those helping on the day said it was depressing to see the number of punctured lilos and beer bottles on the riverbed.

But they couldn't get many of these because the river was flowing too quickly.

"It's just laziness, but it's also that these (inflatable toys) are essentially single use plastics. 

"It's rubbish from the second you buy it."

She felt those enjoying floats down the river needed to be mindful that it was a taonga to be treated with care.

Leisurely river floats from near the Control Gates Bridge to Otumuheke Reserve or Hipapatua are a popular free summer pastime with locals and tourists who see them promoted on social media.

"The thing we don't want is for the river to be closed," she said.

Taupō Harbourmaster Heath Cairns said it was disappointing to hear of the amount of rubbish.

"Using these waterways is a privilege and as such should be treated with respect."

 

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Difficulties in retrieving several shopping trolleys and a stormwater grate limited the scope of the clean up.

He also reminded those using the river that the riverbed was private land.

"No-one appreciates others littering on their land, all rubbish should be taken away."

Cook said future clean ups might need to be expanded to cope with the scale of the problem.

"If we do this again, and there is certainly interest from people, we would look at several crews of divers and boats. We would also look at getting a controlled flow from Mercury to ensure the lowest possible flow, which makes rubbish retrieval easier."

Following the clean up, Mercury said it supported the idea and would be keen to participate in an annual clean up that coincided with a restricted river flow.

 

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A trailer load of rubbish from the clean up.

He also reminded those using the river that the riverbed was private land.

"No-one appreciates others littering on their land, all rubbish should be taken away."

Cook said future clean ups might need to be expanded to cope with the scale of the problem.

"If we do this again, and there is certainly interest from people, we would look at several crews of divers and boats. We would also look at getting a controlled flow from Mercury to ensure the lowest possible flow, which makes rubbish retrieval easier."

Following the clean up, Mercury said it supported the idea and would be keen to participate in an annual clean up that coincided with a restricted river flow.

 

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Taupō teenagers Stella Wyatt and Nola Strauss about to enjoy an afternoon float down the Waikato River. CHRIS MARSHALL/STUFF

But a spokesperson was also concerned people understood the hazards of any river environment.

"Safety in and around the river is a big message for us. The hotter it gets the more inviting it looks but it's the same unpredictable thing whether in summer or winter and there is additional unpredictability in the Waikato around the flows."

Cook said any additional help would be appreciated as everyone on the annual clean ups, including the divers, had volunteered their time free of charge.

"If it could be funded that would be awesome."

 

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Groups preparing for a free float down the Waikato River on a Friday afternoon. CHRIS MARSHALL/STUFF

A keen outdoors man, Cook was at a loss to understand the mentality of people who can enjoy nature, and free activities like floating down the river, but then dump rubbish in it at the same time.

"I'm sure some people will say ban them but that's not an option."

The Tūwharetoa Maori Trust Board was also approached for comment for this story but did not respond by deadline.

Source: Stuff

For the original article, please visit stuff.co.nz

https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/news/taupo-times/119570218/rubbish-depressing-say-taup-clean-up-crew