“We are the protectors,” Max reminds others as he sets off up the wharf with bucket in hand. Once a month a ‘flashmob’ of locals, liveaboard boaties, and visitors find the 90 minutes ‘Earthcare Opua’ gathering is not only rewarding but surprisingly enjoyable!
Earthcare Opua remains deliberately unstructured. With no-one in charge, newcomers and regulars alike simply assemble in assorted hi-vis with bucket or bag and a protective glove. The group searches for litter across Opua, ‘harvesting’ debris from roadsides, tracks and the wharf. “Knowing what I have picked up may keep a seabird or fish safe, means a lot,” explains Janie, “It’s something practical I do once a month that really makes a difference!”
“I can’t believe all the cigarette butts,” a local says. “I must have picked up 100 or more, including a pile outside my mate’s business! Today I’ve found out butts contain plastic and when seagulls feed them to their chicks, it kills them. That’s so crazy! Tomorrow, I’ll be down to chat with my mate! I bet he doesn’t even realise! Maybe it’s his workers, maybe customers, but a sand can for stubs wouldn’t be hard eh?”
Amongst the liveaboards from the marina, a competitive element develops. “Anyone else find more than a dozen cable ties, ‘cut and dropped’? “ A discussion begins around small bits of rubbish washed by yesterday’s under the hard stand fence. “Another rain and they’d have been floating in the ocean!” says one overseas yachtie who sees the practical impact her work has had. ‘it’s good to help out, and, I’ll be more sparing with cable ties from now on!”
An Aucklander has come with his Opua friends. He’s shocked by the number of pie wrappers he’s picked out of marina gardens! Mainly though, he’s pleased his friends persuaded him to come along. “It’s been great to meet all you guys. I love coming up here and now I’ve done my bit to care for the Bay!”
Earthcare Opua meets outside The Opua Store the first Sunday of each month at 9am. All welcome. *Opua Store and the Marina Café kindly support volunteers bringing a reusable cup with a complementary tea or coffee after the pick-up.
Are you unable to make Earthcare Opua next month but want to do your part to protect the Bay?
Opua Business owners – your business no doubt depends on the health of the sea. Is there something more you can do to support your customers and workers to care for our Bay?
Seafarers – how many cable ties do you really need?
Smokers – could an empty Eclipse Mints tin in your pocket/bag/car be your new ‘butt holder’?
Pie lovers –Would you be willing to consider being a role model for protecting the bay?
Householders – Still taking packaging you dislike home with your purchase? Help businesses step up to their responsibility to talk with their suppliers about earth-friendly alternatives by handing packaging back in at the store. #timetoasksupplierstochange
Jane Banfield is a Paihia grandmother with a passion for the ocean. Her first introduction to yachting was to marry the Kiwi yachtsman who 35 years ago happened upon the remote island school in Vanuatu where she was a volunteer teacher. A keen kayaker, sailor and almost-daily swimmer, Jane is a self-styled ‘zero waste granny’ who has chosen a low impact packaging-free lifestyle and supports others in the Bay of Islands to do the same.