An eco-tourism business owner says he's shocked at the amount of rubbish littering beaches on Great Barrier Island, after collecting eight sacks full from just a small stretch of coastline.

Kurt Salmond, of Gulf Eco Adventures, has now voiced his disgust in an open letter to Auckland Council and the Hauraki Gulf island's residents and local board members.

In the letter, Salmond wrote how he'd believed the isolated island had been untouched by the effects of Auckland's coastal pollution, only to find on a four-day trip he was "very much mistaken".

"On the small island of Rangiahua (Flat Island), in the Broken Islands on the west coast of Great Barrier Island, I found the most rubbish-polluted beach that I have ever discovered in New Zealand," he said.

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Photo / Kurt Salmond
Photo / Kurt Salmond

"As I approached the beach in my kayak, I could see the rubbish piled among the seaweed and driftwood, but it wasn't until I reached the shore did the full impact hit me.

"This beach was a plastic graveyard."

Salmond said it was ironic that one nearby Department of Conservation sign urged people to look after the gulf.

Over six hours, he collected eight rubbish sacks from a 100m stretch of coastline.

Most of the waste was broken pieces of low-grade plastic, bits of nylon rope, plastic bottles and bottle caps, plastic straws and plastic bags.

"Perhaps the saddest part of this story came as I was working through the final two hours of my clean up," he said.

"Three local boys around the ages of 10 to 13 years came down to the shore to play.

"They asked what I was doing, so of course I told them I was cleaning up the beach and that they were welcome to grab a bag and help me.

Photo / Kurt Salmond
Photo / Kurt Salmond

"They chatted to me for a bit, the younger ones kept playing, but after 30 minutes or so, having not picked up a single piece of rubbish, they started to make their way back up the track.

"I called out to them, 'Do you not want to help, do you not care about your beach?' The eldest boy turned and quite happily and politely said 'nah, not really.'

"We are all responsible as human beings to protect the environment, to think about what we consume and discard, but more importantly, to actually do something when we see a need rather than ignoring the situation or expecting someone to come along behind us and clean up the mess."

It's not the first time worries around litter on the island have been aired.

Photo / Kurt Salmond
Photo / Kurt Salmond

Over two days in 2010, the Sustainable Coastlines group removed 3125kg of rubbish from the island's coastlines - of which recyclable materials made up a third - and pointed out how most of the waste was evident on beaches that faced Auckland.

Salmond has now launched a Facebook group, Gulf Eco Warriors, encouraging locals to take responsibility for pollution and to make environmentally conscious decisions about what they consume and the waste they create and discard.

Auckland Council's acting general manager of waste solutions, Parul Sood, said Rangiahua Island was not serviced by the council and much of the litter that had been collected had likely come from boats and the mainland.

"This litter gets washed up on to beaches which makes investigation and compliance more challenging, since the source of the litter may be many miles away."

Auckland Council was undertaking a marine litter strategy to identify the scale and nature of the problem, the source of the litter and possible solutions.

Sood said the council addressed litter issues on land through education, enforcement action and frequent litter collections in high-use areas and main road.

"This limits the volumes of litter getting washed into the sea through stormwater drains.

"Generally we are not aware of major issues regarding waste and litter on Great Barrier Island and its beaches.

"The council contractor removes loose litter from around litter bins and rubbish collection points and residents and bach owners take pride in their beaches and are pro-active in removing what litter there is."