Recently I had the opportunity and honor of
being part of a cleanup effort for South West Fiordland.. some
of the remotest ruggedest, wildest and beyond words stunningly
beautiful country in NZ.
We worked in small helicopter transported teams covering an area
from Resolution Island (Dusky Sound) around to Port Craig near
Te Waewae bay on the south coast.
Accomodation was generously provided by Kisbee Lodge in Preservation
Inlet (Kisbee is a privately owned lodge which isn’t run
on a commercial basis).
The team consisted of around 40 people mostly
volunteers with 2 helicopters and 2 boats in support.
My journey began in Queenstown where I drove
to Manapouri to catch the helicopter over the southern alps to
the wild west coast. Over the course of 4 days we collected roughly
120 fadges of rubbish (a fadge is basically a very very large
sack thing) weighing roughly 150 kg a piece.. that’s a staggering
18000kg of rubbish!!!
township from helicopter
The cost of the cleanup has been estimated at
over $100,000 and was sponsored by around 20 companies.
One company (who do scenic flights) one of the
primary motivations for involvement (additionally to genuinely
caring for the place) was to reduce the visual impact of the rubbish
along the coast, pre cleanup this impact was considerable.
photo of Fiordland coastline
this was a mammoth effort and we worked our backsides off we couldn’t
hope to get it all dispite our best efforts.. why? Some was buried
too deep, some we undoubtably missed (you'd walk over an area
and think you had everything then after turning around you'd see
a lot more), some bits there was nowhere to land a helicopter
and no chance to land a boat. Some of the things left were being
pounded by large swells.. remember we are talking about the Fiordland
coast here... when its rough swell sizes are as big as anywhere
in the world and as ropes, nets etc.. become tangled and buried
in rocks and gravel.
The debris isn’t limited to just plastics although they
comprise the majority of the material. One team found a TV intact!!
I found bottles of chemicals (some pretty nasty), glass, rubber,
alloy and who knows what else was dragged off that coast. The
fishing industry has lost a number of boats along this dangerous
piece of coast with some whole & parts remaining unsalvageable.
of rubbish ready for pickup
much as I’d like to say the coast is now clean and clear..
I cant. We hadn’t the time or resources to get everything
completely even though we did incredibly well and tried (to do
so would have probably doubled the amount of time and cost of
the operation, something I’d personally have loved, but
the sponsors would’ve perhaps struggled? And perhaps the
laws of diminishing returns).
what sort of stuff did we miss? A heartbreaking example is the
burnt pile of rubbish from a campfire below. The plastic and alloy
is fused into the beach making complete removal virtually impossible.
melted mess, there is absolutely no need for this.
a couple of meters from the fire remains.. likely died of natural
pollutants of this coast are things like Gorse and Broom and the
odd Thistle.. all introduced species, they don’t have a
strong hold on the coast as yet but they are about.. to remove
them was outside of the scope of our cleanup operation. I’d
hope that the Department of Conservation is managing to mostly
stay on top of them, left unattended these invaders among others
will do considerable damage to the area, something which cannot
lifting out fadges of rubbish to offshore boats
where did all this rubbish come from?
Some I identified as probably foreign fishing boats (Korean writing
on drink bottles etc..), much of it was rope, fishing buoys and
fish cases from the local fishing industry. It should be noted
that we had local commercial crayfishermen assisting with the
the credit of the local commercial fishermen, they voluntarily
have reduced their quotas by 20% to help preserve the fishery
and marine ecosystems.
such a rough coast ravaged by storm and sea fishing gear is frequently
and unavoidably lost, fish cases washed from the decks of small
boats. These guys are fishing close in shore amongst the bricks
(rocks), ropes are chafed and broken off in storms. Although they
try to prevent such losses they are unavoidable the local fishing
community is more than happy to fully support and help with the
Some of the rubbish I was unable to identify a source.. it floats
in from around the world.. previously there have been coconuts
found on the Fiordland coastline (too cold to grow here though)
which gives you some idea just how far this stuff floats around.
cleanup crew was divided roughly into 2 parts. Half started at
Port Craig and worked westward, the remainder of us started on
Resolution Island and worked south.
Due to very rough weather I’m not sure how far the south
team covered the first day.
As for the western teams we covered 24 km the first dayI think
I heard mentioned.
We were in and out of the helicopter constantly, our crew divided
into 2 teams of 3 and played leapfrog down the coast with the
pilot assisting while waiting to ferry us to the next landing
site & transporting boat based crews around.
pre pickup rubbish, the photo doesn't show the volume of smaller
during the cleanup I was able to fill a sack with rubbish with
in a few meters, we were forever having trouble keeping up the
supply of empty sacks and resorted to dragging stuff, filling
any fish cases, nets etc anything we could find that would hold
stuff. More often than not we’d simply make piles for the
helicopter to drop us yet another fadge on.
Enterprises) & Rob (Local Fisherman (boat The Loyal)) picking
rubbish off the shoreline.
author) picking up yet more plastic
was a serious job dependant on the particular piece of coast you
were working, thankfully most of the stuff was plastic so not
too heavy to move.
the end of the first day we were flown to Preservation Lodge in
Kisbee Bay. The lodge the only settlement that remains on the
site of the township of Cromarty an old gold mining town where
gold was discovered in approximately 1868, at one stage there
was around 100 miners in the area. In 1869 the lighthouse was
built on Puysegur Point. It’s also among the oldest settled
area in NZ. In the 1800’s sealers based in the area, soon
afterward followed by whalers then the gold rush.
2 we were grounded by 70 knot south westerly winds and massive
seas which made flying impossible and prevented the southern teams
from joining us so 8 of us holed up in Kisbee dining on crayfish
and wild venison, drinking beer & whiskey with more food than
we knew what to do with.
cooked Crayfish (large)
3 up again at dawn after making lunches for the stranded southern
teams (not as well provisioned as us) and back in the helicopter
this time bound for the southern part of the coast and the toughest
day. The geology of the coast is forever changing, every other
landing site the rock and formations are quite different.
on the west side of Resolution Island, most have a single tree
on top, how they survive the storms is a wonder.
on the South coast. Shows bouldery formations, although you might
expect most of these rocks to be loose most of the loose rocks
have been thrown up on the shore frequently trapping debris.
Rock Arch Resolution Island
Tunnel, this piece of coast is covered in these kinds of formations..
they're everywhere. Frequently you think you cant get past a point
and you find a tunnel through to the next beach.
to next beach, luckily the tide was out. On the other side of
this was a 3m drop to gravel with waves washing through, you had
to carefully choose your timing to duck into a cave on the left
then scramble around another bunch of rocks to get to the beach..
no problem dry feet.
main challenge presented by the southern part of the coast was
that it is covered in boulders which move around with storms and
trap stuff. At the end of day 3 we were back in Preservation Inlet.
I should mention that as part of the team I was a member of we
had a TV 3 cameraman and reporter, hopefully once it has gone
to air (Campbell Live & Coast Watch) I will be able to include
the footage supplementary to this article.
Helicopter Team (lodge manager Adrian right front)
4 was mostly helicopter work moving fadges to the boats then the
You have to give full credit to the chopper pilots doing this
work.. they were flying in 35 knot winds with a sizeable ocean
swell dropping the collected rubbish to the offshore boats as
well as picking up boat based teams from the boats and ferrying
back and forth to the shore.
the end of day 4 we flew back to Manapouri with southern teams
heading out via boat (or Jetboat up the Wairaurahiri River to
must preserve Fiordland regardless of the cost.. it is one of
the Worlds most special places and one we still stand a chance
keeping just that.
like to take the opportunity to heartily thank all those involved
with the Fiordland Coastal Cleanup 2012 you / we did a fantastic
job a huge thanks to the pilots, sponsors, organisers and volunteers.
& Isla Bank Butchery
Management Committee Inc
Times News Paper Video Coverage of Southern Teams below
you would like to be involved with assisting "clickbelow.co.nz's
"Project Pure" in its infancy as a sponsor or diving
participant please contact the author to help me make an underwater
cleanup dream a reality.. pollution isn't limited to the surface
and is doing considerable damage to our waterways. Last dive in
Lake Wakatipu hundreds of kg of rubbish was removed from just
a small area.. this needs to happen in co-operation with local
communities on a much more regular and larger scale.
I need to make this happen is support in the form of equipment
supply / maintenance, air (breatheable), land based support and
rubbish removal, experienced divers etc etc.
Project Pure has been stalled at the concept stage for several
years as I cant do it solo or afford to fund the cost of the dives
etc.. its time to make it happen before its too little too late..
& yes I'd like to see this project to go national and international.
run an annual cleanup dive in various locations around the world
and remove a startling volume of rubbish, these dives however
cover small areas and are just the tip of the iceburg.