It was a hot, clear Sunday morning when small groups of people began gathering on Te Oneroa a Tõhē (90 Mile Beach) at Ahipara, Waipapakauri Ramp and Hukatere.
After a short karakia and safety briefing they were handed feed sacks that Waiharara School pupils had sewn into reusable rubbish bags, and they were off, on the third annual big beach clean-up.
Many of the volunteers had helped before, Jo Shanks said, with a mix of keen locals, DoC staff, the surf life saving club, the 4WD club and community organisations.
"Some locals felt the beach looked pretty clean when they were driving along. Others let us know about spots where parties had left broken bottles, or plastic had turned the beach into a brightly coloured mosaic," she added.
"We were looking for litter trapped in the dunes.
"We also wanted to remove more of the plastic erosion matting, put in place 20 years ago with the best of intentions, that is now disintegrating, which could make our kaimoana too toxic to eat."
The annual clean-up, organised this year by the Far North District Council-funded CBEC EcoSolutions and supported by a few local businesses had been growing each year, she said.
In previous years Sweetwater Farms had provided trucks and people power, and the clean-up had concentrated on the beach from Ahipara to Hukatere, but this year Te Hiku Mussell Spat Collectors joined the kaupapa.
"With their trucks and muscles they were able to remove burnt-out cars on a recovery vehicle, as well as literally tonnes of abandoned nets and commercial fishing gear from Fraser Point to the Bluff," Jo said.
"Including the litter from Shipwreck Bay to above Hukatere, around seven tonnes of assorted waste was collected in a few hours.
"Many hands did not make it light, but it was certainly very satisfying work. Thank goodness the FNDC paid for removal, or this litter would have cost the Earth."
■ Anyone who would like EcoSolutions to help co-ordinate a clean-up in the Far North or Whangārei District was welcome to make contact via www.ecosolutions.org.nz/