Hayden Smith

New Zealand Local Hero of the Year



New Zealand Local Hero of the Year

Te Pou Toko o te Tau


Concerned about the trashed state of New Zealand’s marine environment, Hayden persuaded the then five Mayors of the greater Auckland region to sponsor him and for the past 20 years he has been cleaning up the shores around Waitemata Harbour.

Each year he has to raise funds for this work cleaning up our water with the self-formed SEA CLEANERS Trust. The Trust has been blessed with money from philanthropic Foundations and corporate organisations, who see the benefits of what Hayden and his team are doing and want to support him in his endeavours, to clean up 10 regions of New Zealand.

Hayden’s work has also attracted international support. He is the only recipient of the Clearwater Award outside of the USA for his work in engaging communities to help clean up the environment. SEA CLEANERS in partnership with Hawaiian Tourism Authority and Hawaiian Airlines run an annual youth ambassador programme, taking students from around the Pacific Rim, to Hawaii to help clean up and educate communities about the growing plastic pollution issues plaguing the Pacific shores.

He also gives talks to various local community organisations, sports clubs, elderly and teenagers of secondary schools around the regions that SEA CLEANERS is present, sharing his message for a healthier Ocean.

During a visit to Hawaii, Hayden decided to help clean up part of the Hawaiian coast and caught the attention of the US Navy stationed at Pearl Harbour. This year Hayden returned to Hawaii at the time of the RIMPAC Navy exercises and was instrumental in organising a joint clean-up project with the combined sailors of both the US and NZ Navies. The RNZN now runs a SEA CLEANERS training exercise for every recruit entering the Navy, as a part of their Basic Common Training. In 2019 when Hayden and his team hosted King Charles, following that event together with the King, they are looking at expanding the Navy recruit training programme into every Commonwealth Naval fleet.

Hayden was selected to be an Eisenhower Fellow in 2023, which has enabled Hayden and SEA CLEANERS mission to be promoted throughout the USA with a vision to develop a sustainable funding model, increased youth ambassador outreach, re-engagement with the US Navy and strengthen NZ/US indigenous relations.

Hayden is a young man who has achieved more than many in their life time and is a citizen that New Zealand should be proud of.