National | Environment

Two tonnes of rubbish removed from popular Rotorua lake

By Arohanui West, Te Rito Journalism cadet.

Although it was a rainy Sunday in Rotorua the atmosphere was high as divers from all across the motu gathered at Blue Lake for a clean-up dive.

The purpose of the dive was to “keep Aotearoa beautiful above and below the surface” and it did just that, with an estimated two tonnes of rubbish collected.

Tractor tyres, plastic bottles, glass, cinder blocks and construction materials are just some of the many items removed. The day started with a karakia and then the 65 volunteers (49 of which were divers) got to work battling the wet weather to clear rubbish from both the lake and shoreline.

“Not even the weather stopped this crew,” said Aotearoa Dive on its Facebook post.

Divers from Aotearoa Dive, Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Ghost Diving, Aotearoa Lakes and other volunteer recreational divers targeted rubbish in the lake bed, reaching depths of up to 10 metres. Cory O’Neill from Te Arawa Lakes Trust was among the divers who helped with the clean-up.

He said he initially got into diving to “engage with the environment in a more meaningful way” and he found himself feeling “more connected” to the taiao as a result.

“The community strength that happens when we all contribute our time and resources helps to lay stronger foundations for our future and te Taiao.

Renee Tapsell from Aotearoa Dive organised the event and she said this was its fourth year organising these events.

She believes Māori are kaitiaki of this space, "so we need to make sure we protect it as best as we can.”

Tikitapu (Blue Lake) is a popular lake in Rotorua; it is enjoyed by both locals and tourists and is a hub of activity often used for kayaking, swimming, boating and its 5.5km walking track that loops around the lakeshore.

Tapsell calls diving the “gift that keeps on giving” so it's fitting that she has hopes to have clean-up events at all 12 lakes within the Rotorua district to “give back to the community”

“As divers, we go out and get ourselves a kai, a crayfish or whatever, so we’re taking something but how do we give back to the moana?’