New Zealander of the Year: Finalist Q’s & A’s series

Department of Conservation —  29/03/2022

The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Ngā Tohu Pou Kōhure o Aotearoa honour those who use their passion to make our country a better place. The awards recognise a diverse range of Kiwis making a difference. Whether they’re aged 15 or 100, they’re contributing to grassroots communities or putting New Zealand on the world stage, they inspire us all.

Together with the Ministry for the Environment we have co-sponsored a new award category for 2022 – The Environmental Hero of the Year Award. celebrating people who are making significant contributions to help restore our natural environment and  protect our unique species.

Huge congratulations to  our first ever Environmental Hero of the Year Award  finalists Hayden Smith, Charmaine Bailie and Jacqui Forbes!

After reading about their mahi we decided to dig a little bit deeper and get to know each one of them better, by finding out who they are and what makes them tick.

Second in this mini-series is Hayden Smith – Here are some of the Q & A’s from when we caught up with him.

Hayden Smith

Tell us about your project and what inspired you to start it?

In 1999, I was a kayak guide in Auckland, taking tours to Rangitoto Island in the Hauraki Gulf. However, bad weather meant that trips were being  cancelled. After my 8 or 9th kayak trip was cancelled, I took one of the boats for a paddle up through the Waitemata Harbour, into the storm. When I reached the Auckland Harbour bridge I saw the plastic pollution problem for the first time. I was surrounded by waste, like nothing I had experienced before.

I decided to approach Auckland City Council with the problem of litter and rubbish entering our waterways and ultimately contaminating our coastlines and the sea.

With the help of our sponsors and volunteers, in 2002 SEA CLEANERS  launched our first vessel on the Waitemata Harbour.

We now have a fleet of 10 vessels. Each crew has a target quantum of rubbish to collect. Ideally, each team will remove 2000 litres of waste a day from our shores.      

The vision of SEA CLEANERS, is to preserve New Zealand’s Coastline for the benefit of the marine life and for the enjoyment of all users. Our  long-term strategy is to educate people, particularly our young people, to dispose of their rubbish in eco-friendly ways, including recycling, and so not to harm the environment.

We also have an education program  which  sees more than 40,000 students throughout New Zealand  participate in a series of activities each year. The program provides students with  real time litter collection information,  statistics on local litter issues and a geographical understanding of their watershed and tributaries.

What made the project a success?

I believe that our success is driven by achieving results  daily, our continued dedication to the cause, accountability to our sponsors, and the community support that we have been so grateful for. All our Skippers and crews are passionate about what we do, and they love inspiring all of our volunteers.

What’s next for SEA CLEANERS?

From being the Official Legacy Programme of Emirates Team New Zealand and the 36th America’s Cup, we have just completed building  six new boats.. Now our primary focus is  to secure  the funding needed to deploy all of these new boats throughout New Zealand.

What’s one thing that New Zealanders can do that make a real difference to protecting our natural environment?

For our cause, people can pick up one piece of plastic off the ground each day. If they are out for a walk at lunch time, if they are out in front of their house. Every piece of litter picked up will stop it going down the drains when it rains and out to sea

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Hayden Smith and his non-profit organisation SEA CLEANERS.

The first ever winner of the Environmental Hero of the Year Award will be announced during The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards Digital Gala on Thursday 31 March, 7:30pm on . Gather your whānau and friends and get ready to join us for a night of inspiring stories and incredible people.

For more information on how to watch the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Digital Gala, click here

3 responses to New Zealander of the Year: Finalist Q’s & A’s series

    Joylene Steicke 29/03/2022 at 5:39 pm

    Amazing, well done!! How sad though, that many humans just don’t
    care about their rubbish and what it is doing to the only home we have.

    pamela pope 29/03/2022 at 2:38 pm

    WOW impressed Hayden ! You certainly get my vote. The sad part is if people didn’t throw rubbish we wouldn’t have a problem. It’s a massive problem world wide as you know. Humans are not really a good look on the planet.

    Shane Winiata 29/03/2022 at 12:09 pm

    I would love to be part this group