Working to keep our coastline beautiful

17 April 2020

Cleaning up dumped rubbish and clearing away burnt-out vehicles in an effort to keep Wellington’s unique coastline beautiful, is just one aspect of Philip Otto’s job.

There have been “quite a few significant dumpings” during the lockdown.

There have been “quite a few significant dumpings” during the lockdown.

Working as Wellington City Council’s Coastal Litter Run and Machine Operator, Philip is responsible for keeping a 37km-stretch of the Capital’s coast tidy and safe for residents and visitors to enjoy.

Philip is out and about in his truck every day, surveying the shoreline from Waitangi Park in central Wellington, right around the bays to Red Rocks on the south coast.

“In some of the more isolated areas around the coastline, people dump lots of rubbish. I often find building materials dumped, especially in coastal carparks. 

"Sometimes people even burn cars along the coast. So that’s where the machine part of the job description comes in. The truck I drive has a big hydraulic arm which is able to lift really heavy stuff.”

As well as hauling away damaged vehicles and large dumped items, the truck’s crane is responsible for moving road-block barriers, and for placing the safety barriers (either large rocks or timber beams) that are on the edge of coastal carparks to keep vehicles from going off the edge.

“It’s definitely stuff that doesn’t get done 40 hours a week but we fill in the time – that’s where the coastal run comes in. It’s basically two disciplines but it’s combined into one position.”

There have been “quite a few significant dumpings” during the lockdown.

Philip says he enjoys the diversity of his role, which includes servicing bins at beaches, collecting up litter and disposing of any hazards such as drug paraphernalia, and other tasks that help keep the environment safe.

“We have a look at all sorts of things around the coast, like the boat ramps. We spray them to make sure there is no algae and no health risk of people slipping when they launch their boats.”

While common litter hasn’t been too big an issue during the Covid-19 lockdown, Philip says there have been “quite a few significant dumpings”.

He says there is more to cleaning up the fish and chip wrappers and pizza boxes than just keeping the coastline looking good.

“Rats and mice take that litter and they shred it and use it to build a nest with, and if there is food left over, then they have stuff to eat as well. So, litter actually promotes population growth of rodents, which has a direct impact on the birdlife and so much more.”

As if Philip wasn’t already busy enough, he is also helping keep the inner City tidy during the lockdown period.

“It’s just about planning, and staying focused,” he says.