When we see litterbugs

Department of Conservation —  22/01/2019

New Zealanders care about our nature and looking after it is the Kiwi way.

Last week stories emerged about a family of visitors to our country who wreaked havoc everywhere they went, including leaving an obscene amount of litter at an Auckland beach.

📷: Krista Curnow

The saying ‘be a tidy Kiwi’ is a bit cringey, but nevertheless it’s something that many New Zealanders hold close to our hearts, like putting tomato sauce on pretty much anything or wearing jandals the minute there’s a crack of sunlight.

Most visitors are quick to adopt the Kiwi way of caring for our nature as well.

Any why wouldn’t you? New Zealand’s nature is incredible.

📷: Crystal Brindle

And weird.

📷: Jack Mace

And completely unique.

📷: Jake Osborne

The antics of this family of tourists have seized the nation, and news story after news story has emerged, citing a litany of rude or illegal behaviour.

The New Zealand press gave them the collective moniker of the “unruly tourist family” (among other, more objectionable titles which The Honorary Consul General for Ireland spoke out about).

Let’s not rehash it all, but in summary no beach, Caltex, restaurant or motel is safe.

The one that seems like a real sticking point for people is the litter left behind at Takapuna Beach in Auckland.

On social media, this is the part that has people feeling the red haze of rage.

A local woman saw the group on the beach. She wrote online there was approximately 12 people in the group, including two babies. Their rubbish included beer boxes, bottles and baby wipes.

These could all cause serious issue for our environment and native species.

Obviously, materials that don’t break down are bad news for the environment, but even materials that do can cause a lot of damage.

Human food can pose huge risk to native species. Ducks, gulls and other birds can pick up botulism from eating contaminated food and water; and sometimes even just the quantity can kill them. For example, if a kākā ate a block of chocolate, it’d be enough to kill them. Plus, mouldy food can cause lung infections.

And the number one issue with food waste is that it attracts pests to the area.

Not only is litter bad for native species, it could also be bad for your wallet. Litterbugs could face a fine of up to $400 for illegally dumping rubbish, and serious offenders could be prosecuted under the Litter Act 1979, with a maximum penalty of $30,000.

📷: Marisa Galitz captured this image of a kea who found a cigarette butt

The majority of New Zealanders and visitors know that it’s not acceptable to create litter in New Zealand, and especially not in nature.

But what should we do when we see others do it?

The woman who witnessed the devastation left by the ‘Unruly Family’ on the beach stepped up and asked them to pick up their rubbish. She told them leaving it there was disrespectful to our country.

The woman reported that instead of picking up their rubbish, this family verbally abused and intimidated her.

We encourage witnesses to speak up if they feel safe to do so, but of course not to put themselves in danger.

Instead of intervening (or if you do and it doesn’t work), here are some other options:

• You could pick up the rubbish yourself. It might not be pleasant, but you’d be an enviro-legend. 👍

• If there’s a place with a warden, like a campground, please let them know. 

• Call the local council. 📱

The council may not be the right port of call themselves, but they’ll certainly be able to advise you on what to do.

In one of the media reports, a member of this family who left litter behind said it was the council’s job to pick up the rubbish and that’s what they were for.

Yes and no. We don’t speak for Council, but having been in similar positions many times ourselves, we can say that it might be part of our job, but it’s certainly not the most important part.

Every time a DOC employee needs to go out and sort some litter someone left behind, that’s time they could be using for something more important.

And there are lots of things we’d rather be doing. You know, core business like protecting our species, restoring ecosystems, eradicating predators and research and development.

📷: DOC

The part of the story that has often been left out of the media reports is that this woman and a bunch of other strangers on the beach came together and picked up the rubbish themselves.

Complete strangers bonded together and did a yuck task, out of sheer love and respect for our nature.

Now that’s the Kiwi way.

litter blog - campaign image

If you see a bird or any other native animal entangled in rubbish, or in unnatural danger, please call the DOC hotline: 0800 362 468

3 responses to When we see litterbugs

    Linda Conning 14/02/2019 at 3:59 pm

    The Kiwi Way is not turning your back when you see something wrong but speaking up, not just about litter but about dogs and mountain bikes on tracks and off leads where they should not be. Over our summer this happened twice. One of party was brave enough to make the cyclist with a dog turn back from half way up Umukarikari! Incredibly the male offender asked if the challenger was from Auckland! No he was not a JAFFA….

    Once I was following a car from which litter was thrown. A few kms further on the car stopped in a township. I stopped and spoke to them about what they had done, and they apologised, looking really guilty. I think peer pressure can be good..


    There seem to be some in our area that think the best way to dispose of McDonalds containers etc is just to merely throw them out the window of their vehicles. They care more for filling their stomach than what affect throwing the rubbish out of their vehicles afterwards has on the environment.

    Our late mother who just so happened to be from Yorkshire loved NZ so much that she would get up at say 5.30am every morning in all the seasons of the years and do her bit for Tidy Kiwi. And due to her volunteer work she received the QSM for Public Service.

    She loved NZ.

    However there are some so-called ‘recent visitors’ who showed their arrogance etc towards our beautiful country.

    Yes we as a country have our faults. But when it comes to things we have a passion for then those who try to ‘pit one against the other’ as these English convicts did then I am proud of our country.

    In humour after seeing the ridiculous and mostly contradictory behaviour of those unruly English people that showed no respect or regard to others I do wonder if 1) the couple named Doran that are married refused to pay for the food at their wedding reception because it contained hair or ants, 2) whether the British still have the habit of sending their convicts to the colonies eg NZ and Australia; because they are just so fed up with such low lifes in their own country 3) why such people arriving here in NZ can afford to come here in peak time 4)if that woman was vomiting up blood whilst in a Police cell then why didn’t she go to the A&E instead of going to the Australian media. Surely it would have been healthier for her to get her vomiting checked into medically rather than approaching a media outlet??!!!!!

    After the Unruly English Tourists have been about and between Auckland and Wellington I do wonder as to how many disposable nappies they also threw out of their vehicles on the journey just to show their contempt of New Zealand and New Zealanders???!!! And if so it brings up the question of “If you hated visiting here so much then why come all this way to NZ???!!!!” Hobbits aside but you as a ‘culture’ obviously don’t care about anyone else but yourselves and what you can rip off from others???!!!! If you ever come back – lets us as a country hope you do not – then please respect us and our country. Don’t view us as a means to an end especially for photo opportunities and publicity stunts.