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Commercial pilot can't bear rubbish people leave behind - so she cleans it up...and won $10,000.

Nardia Clarke had been flying in the pristine Fiordland National Park before moving to Rotorua for a summer flying float planes and noticed a major difference in the two places – the rubbish.

She was shocked at the amount of cans, plastic and other rubbish floating around Lake Rotorua.

With a plane-load of sightseers on board, 25-year-old commercial pilot Clarke was accustomed to pointing out the beauty of New Zealand and sharing the clean, green image tourists expected to see. Her favourite line during flights: "New Zealand has every shade of green you can imagine".

But along with all the beautiful spots, Clarke's eye also fell on of the rubbish marring the lake. So to do her bit for World Water Day she decided to do a large clean-up of the lake.

That's why she won the DairyNZ/The Vision Is Clear prize of $10,000 for their 'Pledge and Win' competition. It asked Kiwis to think about something positive to do for waterways, to share their idea and to be in to win.


Entrants had to post a photo of their pledge in action (for example, planting a tree near a waterway) on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag #thevisionisclear – which Clarke decided to do one day on her clean-up trip to the lake.

"I'd been doing small clean-ups of the lake when I had a chance around my flying duties but I was really lucky to have a free morning and committed to getting into the lake with the waders and net for a big clean up," says Clarke. "I decided to do an Instagram post along with it."

The results of a small clean-up. Photo / Supplied.
The results of a small clean-up. Photo / Supplied.

It was her parents and grandparents who taught her always to pick up rubbish, even other people's, and she can't understand those who (a) drop rubbish and (b) don't pick it up when they see it.

"It's become a big thing for me," she says. "I've always done it. I was always taught never to litter and always to pick it up – and it has stayed with me. I even pick up stuff from the road when I am going to work."

'Pledge and Win' was designed to share ideas to get people thinking about how they can make a difference, such as joining an environmental volunteer group, planting trees, giving up disposable plastic or helping to restore a wetland. The movement aims to gather people together to share their ideas and bring those ideas to life.

"I initially got the call saying I had won on April 1 so I thought it was an April's fool joke," she laughs. "My partner told me to wait and see and sure enough, he was right.

In her immediate future is a trip to Scotland with her Scottish-born partner to visit some of his family: "I've never been to Europe so I'm very excited."

Given Clarke's eagle eye for rubbish, there's a fair chance any Scottish lochs she visits will also get a clean-up…