A charity whose business involves getting their hands dirty is to set up in Northland, having pulled millions of litres of rubbish from New Zealand seas.

Seacleaners charity founder Hayden Smith was in Whangarei last week to meet with sponsors, with a view to getting a full-time operation set up in Northland within the year.

Since forming in 2002, the trust has collected 27 million pieces - about 3.4 million litres - of rubbish, mainly from Auckland's harbours, using community volunteers.

Mr Smith said it was "hard to measure" how much of a dint the trust had put in the pollution problem. "We do get feedback [in Auckland] that there's been a significant decrease in the amount of rubbish since we started work 13 years ago," he said.

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Northland Regional Council (NRC) has committed $25,000 per year in its Long-term Plan to supporting the trust, but Mr Smith said the overall operation - which included a boat, volunteer co-ordination, education programmes and two or three full-time staff - was expected to cost more than $300,000.

Far North Holdings, Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust and North Port had tentatively indicated they would support the cause.

Northland regional councillor David Sinclair said he had taken on Seacleaners as a cause. He acknowledged that rubbish was only half the problem when it came to water quality and said NRC was also working to improve water quality at a microbial level.

A 2015 Seacleaners trial in Whangarei Harbour involved more than 1000 volunteers and saw 330,000 pieces of rubbish collected in just over a month, piled against the backdrop of Whangarei's Te Matau A Pohe Bridge.