It flies toward the Waipū River wharf like a rubber ducky on steroids.

Is this small, bright yellow craft a jetski or a go-cart for water? Or a sea-going motorised rubbish container? (It has a couple of bins in the flat bow platform).

It is, in fact, a Zego, a three-metre moulded polyethylene plastic catamaran with a wickedly playful air and big on safety, versatility, manoeuvrability, affordability . .. . several qualities that end in "ability". If there is such a word as funability, it would also do.

We'll move on later to some more salty talk about the clever craft, one of thousands that have been made in Waipū over the past 20 years and sold all over the world by its ''inventor'' Grant Greenbury.


But, first we'll catch up with the guy sweeping a hand-held net through the water as he wheels around to the wharf. The ducky is flying a flag proclaiming ''Trash Cat''. The earlier reference to a motorised rubbish container is not too far off the mark.

After a lifetime of boating, and growing dismay at the amount of hard pollution and its tendency to become part of the marine foodchain, Waipū man Chris Walton is making it his mission to help achieve rubbish-free waterways and beaches.

Walton spends hours in his own time picking up rubbish from the water and coastline.

He hopes other local boaties and beachgoers will come on board the idea and envisages fun, family/community days with a flotilla of water craft and a small army of beachcombers taking part in coast and on-water clean-ups.

Zego Sports Boat designer/maker Grant Greenbury, left, and Chris Walton.
Zego Sports Boat designer/maker Grant Greenbury, left, and Chris Walton.

Walton has been showing the way and flying the Trash Cat flag on a Zego lent to him for the purpose by his long time mate, Greenbury.

''It's an idea we've pinched from the Aussies, even the name,'' Walton says of Trash Cat.

The name came from a chap in Sydney who bought a Zego especially for mooching around in-harbour, rivers, shallows, mangroves, marinas, under bridges and alongside wharfs . . . anywhere rubbish bobs about or becomes marooned. His aim is to create a movement where others who love the marine environment get involved, an ever-growing consciousness and action plan.

''We told him we'd be keen to do something like that here and we liked the name Trash Cat, and he said, 'knock yourself out, we don't want to own the idea, we want it to be everyone's'.''

The day the Advocate meets Walton and Greenbury for a demo of the wicked little Zego and its role in cleaning up the coast, Walton nets a day-glow pink spent balloon - a wriggly thing floating on the water's surface, looking just like a fish lure.

It could easily lure a fish to its death, it might take decades to break down, and it gave someone only a few minutes of fun.

''Every single piece of rubbish you pull off a beach or out of the water has the potential to kill marine life,'' Walton says.

''Another of my concerns is there's been a huge growth in the [Northland] population because of our beautiful beaches but there has been no increase in efforts to lessen that impact on the coast and sea.''

Walton spent Waitangi Day cruising around the Bay of Islands on Trash Cat scooping litter out of the water.

He knew it would be more a promo than a project, with more boats and Bay watchers than usual in the area it was a good opportunity to gain attention for both Zego Sports Boats and Trash Cat.

Walton says the response as he cruised around was amazing, although the amount of visible rubbish wasn't as bad as he'd expected, and, he points out, boaties are generally an environmentally aware group.

But the vows from many to be more proactive were heartening, while a foreign man trying to lower bags of rubbish into the Zego because he thought it was a collection service was plain funny.

''I'm very grateful to Grant for lending me the Zego for the job and backing this whole project.''

Greenbury's been funding the project to date, in part his way of giving back to the marine world which has made him a good living, and because he and Walton are equally passionate about that environment.

''Ideally for me it would be great to get the clean-up project to become a community supported thing.''

The idea of personal, community and business responsibility gets a fair few airings through Greenbury and Walton taking Zego Boats and Trash Cat kits to every boat show and marine day-out possible.

The Zego has certainly done the rounds in New Zealand and internationally over the years.

The foam filled polyethylene, unsinkable, light-weight, twin-hull, go-anywhere, do-anything craft is a headturner and has chalked up many a review for its work, fishing and play potential.

Either the regular or more souped-up Zego models are ideal as a two person, three at a push, tootle-about ride-on (four hours cruising around per tank) or for towing a toy.

Ninety per cent of Greenbury's Zegos are exported. The shipping company P & O runs a fleet of them at Port Vila in Vanuatu, and they're used in fresh water and sea locations elsewhere in the Pacific, the USA, Europe and Australia.

Now he's exporting a sea and coast clean-up message with every craft sold, and he's funding Walton's clean-up activities.

It's a nice fit, but the two are keen for others to try on the local waterways and coast clean-up for size, too.

* Northland businesses come in all shapes and sizes. If you have a business story to share please contact Lindy Laird, Ph (09) 470 2801, or email