I had a great day out yesterday with Seacleaners (sponsored by Watercare in Auckland) and Wilkinson Environmental.

Plastic Pellets
Simon took a lot of photos of small plastic pellets (used in the manufacture of plastic products) that littered the foreshore. Unfortunately we could not clean these up.
Full boat
We loaded up most of the boat in less than an hour or two, we had to stack up the back of the boat to balance the load.
Bottle with black bottom section
I remember these bottles from my childhood, amazing how long it takes for plastic to breakdown.

Ambiance Impex

This is so gross – documented here for Auckland Councils Pollution Response Team.


Please click on the thumbnails to see the full image.

The front of the building
The front of the building.
Shows how they have to exit to do the dumping
Shows how they have to exit to do the dumping.
View from the dump site down into the stream
View from the dump site down into the stream
Paradise brand name clearly visible
Paradise brand name clearly visible
Organic waste – it smelt so bad
Organic waste – it smelt so bad.
View from the opposite side of the stream
View from the opposite side of the stream.
There  are also a lot of tires upstream
There are also a lot of tires upstream.

The Ambiance Impex brands dumped into the stream are all branded Paradise.

impexWhen I first noticed the dumping in March and reported it to council the dumping was not so bad.

I wonder if the tires are from this dodgy looking bridge which is no longer there but is still visible in the council satellite imagery.
I wonder if the tires are from this dodgy looking bridge which is no longer there but is still visible in the council satellite imagery.

Even tho this site 120m from the Manukau (West coast of NZ) it flows through the Tamaki Estuary to the Hauraki Gulf (East coast of NZ).

UPDATE: 27 November.
Eight months later and the site is still sending plastic like these Paradise branded ‘cut green beans’ into the harbour. I am giving the council regular updates on the site but I don’t know how much (if any) is being cleaned up by Ambiance Impex or if its just getting washed into the ocean.


UPDATE: 23 Feburary.
Ambiance Impex still show little regard for the environment sending further plastic into the stream.

UPDATE: January 2018.

Happy to report that after constant reporting the business has finally cleaned up their act.


I had a lot of fun illustrating this comic which explains what swimmable means.

It was fun to write myself into the comic in a socratic kinda way. I think I might do some more of these.

Pure New Zealand

James Cameron

I love James Cameron’s 2010 TED talk which has been used in the latest 100% Pure New Zealand campaign.

Like Cameron, I too grew up reading and drawing science fiction and exploring nature. This year my ‘journey of discovery’ took me deep into the Waitakeres for my own Avatar experience.

Bioluminescence Avatar

There, in the moonlight, I crouched in the middle of a small stream prodding and splashing away like a child. Like Jake Sully I was enchanted with tiny animals that (unlike glowworms who glow for hours) release a bright burst of bioluminescence. The limpets I was teasing are called Latia and they release bioluminescent slime as a defensive mechanism.

You won’t find these alien limpets anywhere else in the world and you also will no longer find them in most New Zealand streams. They need clean water, and we have filled our lakes and rivers with too much sediment for them to survive. Our waterways are far from 100% pure. Most of the rivers that are pristine are high in the South Island where it is too cold for Latia to survive.

Our government wants to treat our streams and rivers like drains. The legislation they have proposed sets extremely low standards for our waterways. I agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment – sediment is one of the three big issues affecting our waterways. Yet our Government has not included sediment as an attribute in the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, and we can’t manage that which we do not measure.

In the 100% Pure ad James Cameron tells us that ‘curiosity is the most powerful thing we own’. My curiosity has changed the way I see the New Zealand environment. It has altered my enjoyment of the New Zealand wilderness. Where before I just saw bush, now see invasive plants. Having heard the morning chorus in our wildlife sanctuaries I am let down by our silent mainland forests.

So a few years ago I started a personal project about the positive stuff – the things that make New Zealand unique. is a website showcasing what we can celebrate about New Zealand, how to experience those things and most importantly how to keep them. It’s a lot more honest than the 100% campaign but it’s still advertises New Zealand.

We can grow tourism and the economy by growing, protecting and restoring our wilderness. But to do it we need more, James Cameron; more curiosity, more imagination, more vision.

Let’s at least try for 50% pure. Let’s focus on the quality not the quantity of our exports. Let’s start doing restoration at an industrial scale and let’s really invest in our scientists who dream of a predator free New Zealand.

Like the narrative arc of James Cameron’s blockbusters we have tasks to master, battles to win and transformations to witness. The New Zealand story must have our unique environment at its heart.
James Cameron ends his Ted Talk with ‘‘No important endeavour that required innovation was done without risk.” – “Failure is an option, but fear is not.”

How to be wild and free

“No!” This is how we teach restraint, over time the child masters the rules and becomes a functioning member of society. But he finds pleasure in the quiet places where no one can yell “No” at him, places where the rules don’t apply, where he can be wild and free.

There is a huge psychological transformation that occurs when you’re outdoors and find that you are no longer alone. Every imaginable cultural judgement can be projected in just a single person. They are not just changing our behaviour they are changing how we think, making us self conscious.

Some people feel this more than others, but perhaps this is why humans bleat and stomp about environmental rules. Because when we are in the wild with all those wild things, we feel wild too. We feel free from all those rules and judgements, those “No”s. So we fight those that tell us “don’t go there”, “don’t kill that” or “leave that alone”. Because they are reducing our freedom, which is true. But unfortunately we live in a world of human expansion and decreasing environmental resilience, our choices now have a greater cost than those of previous generations. We are slowly learning we can longer afford to be wild, we have to share our freedoms, not just with this generation but the next one too.

The reason the human population has grown so fast is because we are so adaptable and culture (our behaviours and technology) has evolved and will continue to evolve much faster than our genes. Those that are following the rules, participating in restoration, conservation, trash removal, pest eradication, citizen science and moving from eating to recording wildlife are developling a new culture. This new culture is already growing fast and with it some of our wilderness is coming back, building resilience and expanding our freedoms. We are finding a new way to be wild and free.

Why we need to do something to fix our freshwater

NZ Herald

Grave warning for NZ’s freshwater life

NZ’s ‘clean environment’ under threat

Water pollution – we can fix it

Most rivers in New Zealand too dirty for a swim

Dairy conversions still hurting our lakes and rivers – commissioner

Dairying’s environmental harm a ‘zero sum’ – study


Many NZ rivers unsafe for swimming

Dairy continues to damage water quality

Explainer: 98% Pure NZ

Cooking oil the tip of the iceberg for polluted Canterbury waterways

New Zealand’s ‘high risk’ beaches for water quality

Manawatu River ‘among worst in the west


NZ water quality getting worse – report

Completely backwards step for freshwater – expert
Is New Zealand really clean and green? A new report suggests we’re not

‘Massive intensification of dairy farming’ is killing freshwater fish – expert


Water quality getting worse – report

Labour: Govt failing on water quality

Lake water quality deteriorating – Smith

Cities urged to act on water quality

Kiwis too optimistic about water quality

NZ walk to raise water quality awareness

Changes to land use bad for water quality – Commisioner

Some farmers refuse to comply with water quality standards

Dairying blamed for damaging South Island water quality

Labour criticise Govt’s three year delay on water quality laws

Radio NZ

Public ‘misled’ over river water quality

Farming damaging environment – report

Environment report depressing – opposition

Deadline to fix Canterbury rivers missed

Freshwater species disappearing rapidly

No prosecution over Tukituki River pollution

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment

Environment Commissioner warns water quality is “not out of the woods yet

Water quality: Nutrients

Water quality: Vulnerability & mitigation

Water quality: Changing land use

Water quality: Policy

Managing water quality: Examining the 2014 National Policy Statement

Thanks to Tom for the links

Drones on farms

Cow drone

In this post I discuss solutions to New Zealand’s nitrogen pollution issue.

While I was at Gather yesterday I had two more ideas.

1. Barking Drones
Drones can already herd sheep. I’m sure if they barked they could herd cows. Moving cow campsites every night would distribute the Critical Source Areas (CSAs) and have a significant impact. A really smart drone might even be able to move an individual cow three meters south east to avoid an existing urine patch or move them mid-event!

2. Top-dressing Drones
Instead of one large chemical dump, drones could be used to distribute tiny payloads to targeted sites. They could be solar powered and use the internet to predict rainfall.

There is no reason the same drone could not do both jobs. They would both build a map of nitrogen distribution over time… smart farming.

With rotational grazing on Dairy farms the campsites are less of an issues. So braking drones would be best used in Beef farms or run off areas (dry stock).

I did the math on using a splash drone (all weather) for fertiliser application:

Splash Drone $2,200. 45kph, 35min to charge, 17min flight time, Max wind speed 40 kmph, Lift 1kg.
I will assume 1 minute to get payload.
45kmph speed for 15mins = 11.25km travelled.
The average NZ Dairy farm is 150ha. 1 ha = 200m return flight.
The done needs to be able to fly 150*200 30,000m or 30km
So the drone either needs to be in the middle of the farm, carry more battery and less payload or the farm needs two drones.
Equip farm with sensors so drone can fly 24hrs by itself.
35min charge + 20 minute run + refuelling = 26 trips per day or 26kg per day, 9,490kg PA.
94 kg N/ha/yr = 14,100 kg PA.

So you would need 1.3 drone stations on the average farm, but the hope is that with regular and targeted applications volume can drop dramatically. It would require a very large solar array, maybe a 20K system with big batteries if you are flying at night.