Hundreds of volunteers expected for Mother of All Clean-Ups

An annual campaign to clean up Christchurch is getting “bigger than Ben Hur”, with 1,200 volunteers expected to help collect rubbish along the city’s waterways this year, organizers say.

Saturday’s event marks the sixth year that the mother of all cleanses have taken place on the eve of Mother’s Day.

Most of the participants would be organized by 53 residents’ associations, sports clubs, environmental organizations and others, said coordinator Tanya Jenkins, of the Avon-Heathcote Estuary Ihutai Trust.

Residents not organized in any of these groups were invited to participate in New Brighton, she said.

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Kira Davis, Ataahua Wawatai and Natalya Brown pull a bucket from the river during the 2020 Mother of All cleanups.

Joseph Johnson / Stuff

Kira Davis, Ataahua Wawatai and Natalya Brown pull a bucket from the river during the 2020 Mother of All cleanups.

A public effort will clear litter from New Brighton Beach and people can meet at the library near the pier at 9.30am. The other will clear the estuary side of the spit and people can meet at South New Brighton Park Pier at 10am (accessible from Beatty St and elsewhere).

Both have been deemed safe. Some other collection sites were next to roads or fast-flowing streams and were unsuitable for some people and children. An aligned effort of city schools was not underway this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It started with three people walking along the Heathcote River and disgusted by the amount of litter,” Jenkins said.

“So we said, ‘Get our groups together and let’s clean it up.’ And then we got more and more interest… It’s getting bigger than Ben Hur.

For the first five years the cleanup covered the banks of the Rivers Avon and Heathcote and the edge of the estuary. This year, New Brighton Beach and Lyttelton​ Harbor have been added. “God knows what will happen next year,” Jenkins said.

“We’re doing this because we want to prevent pollution in our waterways and protect wildlife like fish and birds – and possibly whales and dolphins in the ocean – who could be harmed.

“It’s too easy to say ‘it’s not our garbage’ or ‘the council should pick it up’. We say, “He’s a cop”. We are all responsible for our own environment and we are all responsible for picking up litter.

Last year’s cleanup collected 2.6 tonnes of waste, according to the city council. More than half of this waste was food and drink packaging. As in previous years, waste will be collected and disposed of by City Care, the infrastructure company owned by the city council.

In recent years, unusual items recovered have included a rifle, binoculars, passports, mattresses, televisions and sofas.

The weather on Saturday was forecast to be fine with northeasterly winds developing and highs of 19C.

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Calvin is a sea turtle that was rescued and rehabilitated. But single-use plastics kill many of their kind. (Video first posted March 2020).

Organizers are also running a tandem campaign called “High Five, I Can Pick Up Five,” which people can participate in in their neighborhood.

Residents were encouraged to pick up five pieces of trash, organizers said.

“This will prevent it from entering storm drains and eventually our waterways.”

Even if only 5,000 residents took part, organizers said they would still prevent 25,000 pieces of waste from potentially ending up in Christchurch’s water system.

Christchurch South Lions Club volunteer Kris Wilson picks up litter at the 2017 event.

Stacy Squires / Stuff

Christchurch South Lions Club volunteer Kris Wilson picks up litter at the 2017 event.