Plastic Beads Pester Coromandel Beaches

Posted by Thames Coromandel District Council on 24/05/2012

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Tiny plastic beads continue to wash ashore and present challenges to workers cleaning up debris along the east Coromandel coastline from Opito all the way south to Waihi.

Teams of workers from Braemar, the company contracted to clean up debris from the Rena shipwreck, have been put to the test and devised new solutions for separating seaweed and natural debris from the thousands of plastic beads washing ashore known as nurdles.

Everything from kitchen sieves to helicopters are being deployed to assist workers in the clean-up effort which is yet to reach a maintenance phase.

In one day late last week workers filled 45 large bags with nurdles collected from Opito Bay and Matapaua Bay north of Whitianga.

Recent high tides are thought to have brought in this fresh wave of debris, depositing it amongst rocks, seaweed, driftwood and on shoreline that cannot be accessed by land. Some is not immediately obvious until clumps of seaweed on the shoreline is pushed aside to reveal large volumes of beads.

“Every beach is so unique and it really is a work in progress to find the best solution for each,” says Braemar Operations Team Leader John Allam, working with a team of around 20 at Tairua.

He said the team uses quite different equipment for oil spills and land based operations and is modifying equipment to make it more effective and robust. The latest piece of machinery to be deployed is a leaf vacuum which has been modified to make it stronger for sucking in and storing beads while sand drops through the mesh bag.

Over the past couple of weeks there have been 20 helicopter lifts to remove bagged debris from coast south of Hot Water Beach and including Slipper Island off Tairua, and other hard to access areas including coastline around Opoutere where small amounts of timber and rope has also been found.

Vessels are also used to transport workers to coastal areas inaccessible by land.

Braemar Operations Co-ordinator James Hamill says another area of interest in the clean-up is Lion Rock in Mercury Bay.

TCDC has been liaising with Braemar, which is in turn liaising with Government agencies, to ensure a satisfactory agreement can be reached on the end point outcome of the clean-up.

To report sightings of debris please call 0800 333 771 or 027 897 4259.