People are being asked to leave beanbags and other polystyrene products at home when visiting Northland beaches this summer because of the potential environmental harm they can cause.
An incident in the Bay of Islands last summer saw thousands of polystyrene beads from a broken beanbag discharged into the coastal marine area at Army Bay, Moturua Island, prompting a lengthy and expensive clean up over several days.
Councillor Marty Robinson, who represents the Northland Regional Council’s Bay of Islands-Whangaroa General constituency says the council eventually managed to recover most of the beads, but a substantial amount still found their way into rock crevasses or ended up among shoreline debris.
Similarly, in February this year polystyrene was scattered at Moturoa Island, in the Bay of Islands from a broken-up pontoon.
In other incidents in recent years, a burst beanbag also caused problems at East Beach, between Houhora and Rangaunu Harbours, over New Year’s in 2018.
Councillor Robinson says the council is not trying to ruin people’s fun but is asking them to think of the environment when choosing what to take to the coast.
“Polystyrene is not an environmentally friendly product. It’s very stable and extremely hard to degrade in the environment. It will float and continue to spread to more remote coves and beaches which makes the clean-up even more time consuming and expensive.”
He says marine animals can also mistake pieces of polystyrene for food and eating it can harm or even kill them.
“We are asking Northlanders and people visiting Northland beaches, coastal areas and reserves this summer not to take beanbags and products filled or made from polystyrene to the beach.”
Councillor Robinson says those responsible for allowing polystyrene into the environment could potentially face a bill for the associated clean-up costs as well as being subject to enforcement action, including a $750 infringement notice.