Wattamolla, Bushrangers Bay, Austinmer, Stuart Park all treated like dumping grounds by visitors

Keep it clean: What goon would visit Wattamolla for its beauty, then leave their rubbish right there? Picture courtesy OEH

Keep it clean: What goon would visit Wattamolla for its beauty, then leave their rubbish right there? Picture courtesy OEH

It’s a hot Boxing Day north of Wollongong and an eight-year-old boy is leading the way, walking ahead of his family down through the gum trees to one of the most beautiful beaches you'll ever see.

He finishes his Pepsi and throws the can onto the rocks and leaves by the path.

His parents see this and say nothing. It's left to a stranger in front of them to tell the kid to pick it up. 

You’re an adult. It’s not hard. That esky you lug around? It can hold your empties too.

The boy looks completely confused. Not cranky, just baffled. Pick it what? 

Pick it up, the stranger says, pointing to the Pepsi can, you can’t just throw your rubbish by the path in a national park.

By now the parents have caught up and shrug, saying nothing. They don’t object, or apologise. At least he didn’t throw it on the beach. The stranger hopes they might do things differently next time but he has Buckley’s. 

The Pepsi people are visitors to this place, down from Sydney for a day at Wattamolla, in the Royal National Park. It’s a favourite swimming spot where a sheltered, clear-water beach meets a semi-fresh lagoon fed by natural springs above. There’s a rock to jump off and bush to walk in.

Crowds flock because it's gorgeous. Some days it seems like half of Sydney has come to Wattamolla and the main car park, and the expanded car parks, plus the extra spots beyond that along the road, are all full. 

... but right there in the middle of the rocky 'beach' you can see where people ate their Hungry Jack's, enjoyed the venue, and dumped all their wrappers there.

... but right there in the middle of the rocky 'beach' you can see where people ate their Hungry Jack's, enjoyed the venue, and dumped all their wrappers there.

Head down to the lagoon and the environment has been completely transformed from how it was in November. There's enough parading to make you wonder if you’ve slipped into the TV set for the filming of an episode of where Keeping Up With The Kardashians visits Jersey Shore.

Style is a personal thing. They’re having fun. But then the guy with the beer bottle just chucks it in the scrub before diving in. No-one even goes in that spot, who will notice?

Given the heat and the sun cream-spray tan cocktail, there's an oily slick floating on the surface of the lagoon. But that will at least partly wash away and become diluted.

The straws, chip packets and glass bottles they leave behind will not break up so easily. And it’s only a matter of time before the cigarette butts they flick start some real trouble. It’s just one butt. What do you want me to do, put it in my pocket? 

Locals are always a tad protective of their beach. But this is not about beaches getting crowded on a hot sunny day.

It’s a simple matter of respect.

Everyone who can read this, and many who can’t, are mature enough to know it’s wrong to leave rubbish at the beach. Or in the bush, or the park, or the walking track. But many of them still they do it. It’s just one little piece of gum, no-one will see.

Wattamolla stands out, perhaps because it was once so pristine. But it’s hardly alone among the most extreme examples of litter damage. 

Crystal clear: A duo snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour's Bass Point reserve, where fishing and collecting is banned for the sake of wildlife ...

Crystal clear: A duo snorkelling at Bushrangers Bay in Shellharbour's Bass Point reserve, where fishing and collecting is banned for the sake of wildlife ...

It’s Austinmer beach on New Year’s Day, where the bins, and the secondary extra bins, are full to overflowing so visitors pile up their rubbish bags on the ground next to the bin. Stupid city council didn’t provide enough bins here, so if I leave this rubbish here it’s their fault not mine.

It’s Stuart Park on the Australia Day holiday, where visitors from various parts of the metropolis to the north set up their camp in a public park for 36 hours, staking out vast territory with enormous tents as they move their backyard to our beaches for the holiday. That’s OK, we’re a welcoming lot in the Illawarra. Why wouldn’t people want to come here?

But then they leave it looking like the aftermath of a Sydney A-League derby. That’s not mine any more, and it’s a huge party day anyway. 

It’s Bushranger’s Bay at Bass Point, where signs clearly say “marine reserve, no fishing, no collecting”. But that doesn’t stop people leaving the entire set of wrappers and debris from their Hungry Jack’s meal right there on the rocky beach. There’s no-one here, I’ll get away with it.

We have had enough.

People, it’s time to grow up. You are not the only person that matters in the world. While your busy cool important life might feel all-consuming, there’s a whole series of creeks, parks, bush, forests, beaches and sea which were here before you. They, and their inhabitants, form our world, and deserve our respect.

You’re an adult. It’s not hard. That esky you lug around? It can hold your empties too. 

We appreciate tourists coming to visit. But we’d prefer it if they left behind some profits for our local small businesses, not garbage all across our most treasured attractions.

If you have to smoke, carry a small container to take the butts. Who knows, you might prevent a bushfire.

Sure, city councils need to wake up to the leap in demand and provide more bins, and more people to empty them during the really busy days. Yes, even if you have to pay penalty rates. 

But if the beachside bin is full, take your bag of rubbish with you. Your rubbish is not the council’s responsibility – it’s yours.

Your kids will do it just like you do, so choose what you want them to learn.

If you’ve got takeway for your group, you’ll need a plan for what’s left over, the paper, cardboard, plastic and cans. You wouldn’t leave them in your own front yard so don’t leave them in someone else’s.

If this is too much, then perhaps you could find another place to abuse for your holidays next year.

Or, if you don’t mind being surrounded by rubbish at your family holiday location, allow me to recommend a great spot. Whytes Gully is just lovely at this time of year.

  • Ben Langford once auditioned for the Wombles but didn’t make it.
Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop