This weekend has been a busy one, with a Saturday drive up the Waihopai Valley, followed by a get together with neighbours in the street for a shared meal, one what just happened to be Neighbours Day.
Marlborough has quite a small population for its geographic size, so it's fairly easy to get to know a lot of people, and it also means there is a lot of wild countryside to explore that's pretty much untamed, without having to worry about the crowds.
Unfortunately, a few people can still spoil it for the rest of the population, and as Marlburians, we need to make a determined effort to keep our region clean and beautiful.
A few months ago, I was up in the Coromandel, having heard of its reputation as one of New Zealand's natural wonderlands, and although I found it pleasant, I didn't think it was any better than Marlborough, and one thing that had a very negative impression on me was the vast amount of litter that locals didn't seem to have noticed. Armed with a video camera, I set out to document it, and I had a few nervous people as a result, as it was not really the image the Coromandel wanted to present to the world. In the end I didn't publish the video online, and I don't know whether anyone has made a cleanup effort, but it certainly had quite a negative impact on my impression of the region.
I guess all parts of New Zealand have issues with litter, and it's not always locals at fault, but it's important to make a strong community effort to prevent littering, and hold those responsible to account.
On my Saturday drive, I decided to go to Craig Lockhart, up the Waihopai Valley, partly as I have a toddler who doesn't like to sleep except during long drives, and also to be perfectly honest because I didn't know where it was. I knew it was up the Waihopai Valley, and I've driven the valley as far as the road allows, but I'd never actually stopped off at the popular swimming spot, or at least not since childhood when I didn't know the name of the place.
Finding Craig Lockhart was easy, simply reading the names on a couple of bridges, and then looking for river access near the bridges. (It turned out the second bridge was the one, in case you want to find the place yourself.)
Even in autumn, Craig Lockhart is an attractive spot to relax with its large rock outcrop and riverbed, although you'd need to b pretty keen for a swim. What was extremely disappointing was the amount of litter, with everything from the common beer bottles and cans to even old mattresses and a broken chair dumped in the location. To me this is totally unacceptable. The Marlborough District Council provides official locations to dispose of rubbish, and for small items like bottles and cans, if there was enough space to get them in a car in the first place, there would have been enough space to take them home after drinking the contents and disposing of them responsibly.
Another sad aspect of the location was the amount of weedy scrub, mostly broom and blackberry I think, rather than what probably would have been manuka scrub in the past.
Personally, I'd have felt it would be natural justice if the litterers had been put to work clearing the scrub as well as their litter, and replanting it in native vegetation to make this spot into another one of the treasures of Marlborough.