Coastal Litter Monitoring in Northland

The regional council has collaborated with external organisations to provide two free and easy ways to help map and reduce litter in our waterways.

Litter Intelligence

Led by New Zealand charity Sustainable Coastlines, the programme works in close collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation and Statistics New Zealand. This survey takes place four times a year at various locations around Northland. The council monitoring site is in the Upper Hātea River, Whangārei Harbour.

Learn more about Litter Intelligence, view data and download results at:

Map displaying litter monitoring site along Hatea River.
Northland Regional Council Litter Monitoring Site, Hātea River.

Te Tai Tokerau Debris Monitoring Project (TTTDMP)

Northland Regional Council and NorthTec have created an easy way to report and display litter along Northland’s waterways using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

The app is free, works offline and maps litter items collected using your device’s in-built GPS. The TTTDMP litter categories are paired with the Sustainable Coastlines Citizen Science Litter Monitoring and the International UNEP/IOC Guidelines.

Marine tracker example.
An example of the TTTDMP map using Marine Debris Tracker at Whangaumu Bay.

Which project is right for my group?

Litter Intelligence

  • Must be undertaken four times a year, for at least 3 years
  • Minimum of 3 people from your group to attend the workshop
  • Beach/coast you would like to monitor e.g. Ninety Mile Beach
  • 108 sites around New Zealand for long-term data and playing a critical role in proving the litter problem and helping to prioritise solutions.

Visit the website to find out more

Te Tai Tokerau Debris Monitoring Project

  • Can be done anytime
  • App is easy to install and use (Android and Apple)
  • Can be done as an individual or as a group
  • Categories compatible to Sustainable Coastlines Citizen Science Litter Monitoring Programme

Want to learn more and start tracking?
Visit the Marine Debris Tracker website to find out how to start tracking

If you are submitting data publicly using this project, please copy (cc) your data to [email protected] 

Stormwater plastic project

Plastic is one of the biggest pollutants of our oceans and can have damaging, or even lethal effects on animals that ingest it or get entangled in it. Plastic also affects the aesthetics and amenity value of our coast.

To estimate how much plastic and litter is reaching our rivers and estuaries each year, we have teamed up with NorthTec, Whitebait Connection, Whangārei District Council, Far North District Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland District Health Board to install ‘Litta Traps’.

The traps are simple cost-effective nets that fit inside stormwater grates to trap plastic and litter pollution that would otherwise be carried by stormwater straight to the sea. We have installed 50 traps at a variety of locations across the region (including playgrounds, car parks, supermarkets, fast food premises, and industrial sites).

NorthTec will audit the contents of the traps every three months to identify high risk land uses and estimate how much plastic gets washed into the sea. This information will help us to develop targeted mitigation and education resources.

An installed LittaTrap.

An installed LittaTrap.

Litter on a stormwater grate.

Litter on a stormwater grate.

Microplastic survey

Local iwi and NRC have teamed-up with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) and Scion to find out more about microplastic contamination in Northland.

This research is part of a national project ‘Aotearoa Impacts and Mitigation of Microplastics Project’, which aims to collect baseline data about the levels of microplastics in different environments to help us better understand the risks that they pose – from ecosystem health to primary industry.

Microplastics are small fragments of plastic less than 5mm in size and are created due to physical and biological degradation of larger plastic items, such as plastic bottles and cigarette butts. These microplastics are incredibly harmful to the environment – entering the marine environment from sewage effluent, stormwater, land run off and marine based activities.

Studies show that these microplastics have been found in a variety of marine organisms such as fish-eating birds, marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates. Kaitiaki and NRC staff have collected samples of sand from ten beaches across Northland and will collect shellfish samples and water column samples over the next 12 months for analysis by Scion. The results of this project will provide valuable baseline information about the extent of microplastic contamination in our precious marine environment.

Read the report: "Microplastic contamination in Te Tai Tokerau-Northland (Aotearoa-New Zealand) beach sediments".

Transect lines on the beach show the survey area, with collected microplastics (inset).

Transect lines on the beach show the survey area, with collected microplastics (inset).

Ocean Plastic Simulator

The Ocean Plastic Simulator is an interactive online tool that shows how plastic waste moves around New Zealand’s coastline. It uses regional models of tides, winds and currents to predict how plastic moves and where it will end up.

Visit the Ocean Plastic Simulator to see where our plastic's going

Screen shot of Ocean Plastic Simulator homepage.

Want to muck in and clean up?

For Our Real Clean Environment (F.O.R.C.E) run the ‘Love Whangārei Monthly Clean Ups’ at different locations around Whangārei and work towards more waste minimization projects. You can check them out at:

Sea Cleaners

Sea Cleaners remove rubbish from the sea, harbours and oceans. To get involved, go to:

Guidelines and reports

The international guidelines and the council's report on the litter monitoring trial are available below:

People collecting litter along a river bank.

Sustainable coastline cleanup along the Hātea River