Sustainable Coastlines

Where – Auckland, NZ

When – We met on 2nd March 2015. The organisation itself began in 2008.

Who – I met with Jodi, the community relationships manager. There are 6 full-time staff, and a whole network of volunteers, some taking part as a one-off in a beach clean-up, others providing longer-term help such as with film, photography and design.

What – Sustainable Coastlines is a charity motivating Kiwis to look after New Zealand’s coastlines, essentially stopping the littering of beaches and the marine pollution that results. They coordinate and support large-scale coastal clean-up events, educational programs, public awareness campaigns and riparian planting projects.

They are increasingly empowering others to do it themselves too – they help groups run their own events to clean up local beaches through the provision of online resources at, and they provide training for others to deliver the presentations that the core staff have been doing up until now. They also run team-building events with corporates, which allow them to generate some of their own funding (not just being solely reliant on donations and fundraisers).

Why – the organisation was established to tackle the problem of litter in the oceans. The organisation’s beginnings were actually in the Galapagos Islands. Founder, Sam Judd, was surfing there and was disturbed by the amount of litter in the ocean, so, he organised a clean up to get rid of it.

Back in New Zealand, he became conscious of litter in the ocean there too. He organised a clean-
up on Great Barrier Island (about 3 hours away from Auckland) with the 300 permanent residents who live there and many more volunteers besides. They did it again a year later and found there was more rubbish than the previous year. More was collected on one side of the island than the other and on inspecting what the litter consisted of, they worked out it was mostly coming from Auckland.

Sam realised that to address the problem they needed to do more than be ‘the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff'; they needed to educate people, help to create behaviour change and stop the littering in the first place. From there Sustainable Coastlines was born.

Impacts/successes – since they began they have recorded: 39,776 event participants, 114,005 presentation viewings, 1,049,660 litres of rubbish collected and 19,934 trees planted. Besides monitoring these impacts, they try to look at outcomes too. They carry out surveys with the school children they give presentations to, beforehand, 3 months later and 6 months later. This is to assess how much they remember, their perceptions and their behaviours in relation to the topic of marine pollution.

Future plans – Sustainable Coastlines has been given a piece of land right on the wharf in central Auckland (temporarily, until the area is used for new apartment blocks). They are turning┬ásome shipping containers into an educational eco-space full of interactive displays and inspiration – creating activities, for passers-by to learn and understand more about the issues of marine pollution and what they can do about it. Once the 2 years is up they will move the container ship to somewhere else and engage a different community around these issues.

Further info –

Personal reflections – Jodi emphasised the friendly, tight-knit and fun-loving atmosphere in the office and their celebration of the little things as well as the big. Those sorts of things are infectious and I’ve no doubt that they spread to all of the volunteers who take part in the clean-up events and the kids who listen to their presentations about the importance of looking after NZ’s beaches. Not only that, other groups and organisations, both in New Zealand and internationally, are using the model to tackle marine pollution issues where they are too. For example, a group in Phuket, Thailand, where beach litter problems are getting worse and worse, are making use of Sustainable Coastline’s knowledge to run their own version there.

I felt lucky to meet the team given what a busy time it is at the moment – it is currently Seaweek (28th Feb-6th March), an ‘annual, national environmental education event that celebrates and explores our connection with and dependence on the sea, and raises awareness about our impacts on it. The aim is to change behaviours and attitudes towards our care of our marine environment.’ So this is their time to shine on a national level, and keep furthering their work to stop the littering of New Zealand’s beaches and oceans.


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