Theo Barsanti didn't hesitate when the nationwide call went out for volunteers to help out in the Fox River rubbish clean up. The Paraparaumu Beach man packed his car, crossed the Cook Strait on a ferry, and drove a staggering 600km in one go before embarking on a six-day straight rubbish pickathon. David Haxton caught up with the man who went to extraordinary lengths to help the planet.
One of the more than 700 volunteers who have helped in the Fox River rubbish cleanup has been Theo Barsanti.
Theo, from Paraparaumu Beach, was keen to help out in Operation Tidy Fox when the Department of Conservation put out a nationwide call for help.
"I'm the sort of person who has a great deal of empathy with the planet and I had a spare week so I thought why not."
In late March an old disused landfill, which has been closed and capped in the early 2000s, located next to the West Coast's Fox River, was partially washed away during an extraordinary flood.
The flood on March 26 and 27 sent debris and rubbish spewing down 21km of river and along 64km of coastline.
It was a mammoth task but slowly and surely, under the direction of lead agency DOC, an army of volunteers as well as New Zealand Defence Force personnel got stuck in and the clean-up, which has collected the equivalent of about 12,000 rubbish bags, is expected to be completed mid this month.
"There has been a fantastic response from the volunteer brigade," said Theo who returned on Friday after a six day straight stint.
"From far and wide these volunteers, Kiwis and an international brigade of young energetic travellers, have made their own way to Fox Glacier."
Apart for the mandatory ferry crossing, Theo drove a whopping 600km from his home to Fox River - in one hit.
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"In the last couple of days when I was there there was probably 120 volunteers out on the riverbed and everyone was very conscientious."
The cleanup had been given extra impetus to avoid spring rains which could have washed lots more rubbish out to sea impacting on marine life.
DOC had been managing the tidy up "with exemplary professionalism".
"DOC is well organised and they're on top of it."
Theo said each day started at 8.30am with a safety briefing and registration before a ride in a six wheel army transport Pinzgauer vehicle over rough terrain to the river site.
"Then work began.
"All manner of rubbish was strewn across the riverbed which was about one kilometre wide.
"At times we were in areas badly obliterated with rubbish and other times we were doing a second picking.
"People told me that two weeks earlier you could have worked in an area of 10sqm all day it was that bad.
"But when I was down there I guess we were walking between 10km and 15km a day up and down the river bed picking up garbage.
"The predominant rubbish was plastic bags but there was everything from car parts, bottles, toothbrushes, syringes — you name it."
The day, which included a lunch break, finished about 4pm with "another wild ride across the riverbed, signout, debrief and shower".
After a hard day's work, volunteers, whose accommodation and meals were provided for by DOC, had a good chance to congregate and swap stories.
"The discussion down there was 'Let's hope this is a wake up call to local authorities to think a bit more about where they put their rubbish, or if it's in a particularly bad place at the moment, to mitigate some of the risks rather than waiting for a disaster to happen'."
Theo said the cleanup was a satisfying and worthwhile project to be involved in.
"If you said to me 'Do you want to spend six days picking up rubbish?' I would have said 'No thank you'.
"But with the camaraderie, the purpose and the setting, I'm well pleased I made the decision to help."