A significant stretch of the beach at Marine Parade in Napier was made a lot cleaner on September 20, thanks to the efforts of more than 70 people, including some from the local Catholic parish.
The Care of Creation group from the Catholic Parish of Napier helped in the beach clean-up event, which saw bags of rubbish collected.
Spokesperson Ruth Smithies told NZ Catholic that this is the third year the group has participated in the beach clean-up, which happens twice each year.
“It really started off with the Anglicans. They have been doing it for longer. Originally, we just joined them,” Mrs Smithies said.
“Last year, there were so many of us that the organisers said you can do your own stretch. So we do it at the same time as they do and we do the adjacent stretch,” she said. The “Catholic stretch” involved several hundred metres of beach.
The event drew a much bigger crowd than usual, because it had been widely advertised as part of DOC’s Conservation Week. Families came, as did school groups, a DOC worker and a group of international English language students and their teacher.
Before the rubbish collecting started, Mrs Smithies gave a safety briefing, which was needed because the Marine Parade beach has a reputation for being dangerous.
People were given the option of which stretch of beach they wanted to work on. This gave rise to an inter-denominational chuckle or two.
Mrs Smithies told the people: “You can either go to the left — that’s where the Anglicans go — or you can go to the right — that’s where the Catholics go. Someone piped up and said ‘where should the Presbyterians go?’ I said, ‘oh well, I guess they go straight up to heaven’.”
“It was really nice,” she said. “There were lots of people who were not Catholic or Anglican, I am sure.”
So people set to work collecting rubbish. Mostly smaller items like bottle tops and cigarette butts were picked up.
“This year and last year the same, we find much, much less, but our items are much, much smaller. So what we understand is happening is that an increasing number of individuals do a bit of beach cleaning, maybe once a week or maybe while they work or walk there.
“But they don’t pick up the small stuff — bottle tops or cigarette butts. There are lots of cigarette butts. One cigarette butt pollutes at least a litre of water.
“We stress when the people come that nothing is too small to pick up. Everything that doesn’t belong there should be picked up — except for needles and dog faeces.”
The rubbish collected was taken away by the Napier City Council.
Afterwards, Mrs Smithies felt the event was very worthwhile.
“I feel that these things are tiny, tiny gestures. In themselves they don’t change the climate crisis. But they do make us more aware of what is happening and I think it also has a bit of a witness function — that we as Christians do care about God’s creation and do feel responsible for the fact that we are messing it up.
“Pope Francis says, and I find this very encouraging, those small actions that we do . . . together, they make a bit of a difference and they signal that we care. And also, in a sense, it makes you feel a little bit better yourself.”
Other activities by the Care of Creation group include regular eco-tips in the parish newsletter, contributions to prayers of the faithful, eco-fairs at churches, eco-audits of parish buildings, and helping organise a World Day of Prayer service for care of creation.