Atua Bentley with the rubbish solution her family is trialling in the Mary River to collect garbage.
Atua Bentley with the rubbish solution her family is trialling in the Mary River to collect garbage. Troy Jegers

Cooloola Cove family saving our oceans with recycled rubbish

WITH the blood of Pacific island royalty flowing in her veins, saving the oceans is a family mission for Atua Bentley and her father Paul Bentley.

And now Gympie Regional Council has given the Cooloola Cove family a chance to stop ocean pollution before it starts, by catching rubbish before it washes from streets and sports fields into creeks, the Mary River and ultimately the fishery and internationally protected wetlands of the Great Sandy Strait.

"I'm using rubbish to collect rubbish,” Mr Bentley said this week of his recycled fishing net filters, which can be fitted over drain outlets to catch rubbish as it washes towards the waterways.

"All the trawler operators are with me, because they take their old nets to landfill normally.

"That all costs money, but now I can use it to make the filters,” he said.

All the materials are recycled except the steel frames, which Mr Bentley uses to attach the nets to drain outlets.

Gympie man Paul Bentley recycling rubbish to catch rubbish.
Gympie man Paul Bentley with the rubbish solution her family is trialling in the Mary River to collect garbage. Troy Jegers

"Instead of it going into the ocean, we should catch it here,” he said, drain-side, next to the Hyne St and Bruce Highway intersection.

"I'm doing this for free as a trial,” he said, adding that he hoped to turn his idea into a business.

"I put a finer netting filter over the larger fishing one to catch straws and cigarette butts.

"I've been at it for three years, trying to perfect it.”

Young Atua is an enthusiastic supporter and to some extent the originator of the idea.

"She's always walking at the beach and there's often a lot of rubbish.

"She said, 'Dad, why don't we catch it at the drains?”

Mr Bentley said he was descended from Samoan royalty and can trace his line back to the first legally registered post-colonial "paramount High Chief, Fanene-Simanuali'I Leilua Tui Samoa.

His grandfather left Samoa at 19 to join the New Zealand armed forces and his father met his mother in Sydney while playing with the All Blacks.

"We're ocean people,” Mr Bentley said.

"I want to talk to other local authorities, Transport and Main Roads and schools so the students can monitor how much rubbish collects and how it can be reduced,” he said.

The filters have to be individually tailored to different drain designs because of a lack of uniform styles of drain.

"Some a brick and some are concrete and some are 60 years old or more.”

He said the drain filters could create employment, including for him and his family, helping the economy as well as the environment.

"If we don't do something now, we'll be in trouble.

"The trawler operators are keen to clean things up too because the rubbish that settles on the bottom interferes with their catch.

"They all say, 'Mate, if you're going to tell me you'll catch it before it gets into the oceans, we're with you.”

The council said yesterday Environment Levy funds were used to cover costs of the experiment.

"The contractor has supplied, installed and will be maintaining the two devices in Gympie as part of a trial, which, if successful, may see further devices installed throughout the region.

"The council is hoping the devices prove to be a very cost effective way of trapping gross pollutants.

"The council is happy to be able to catch this rubbish before it reaches our waterways; but it is a shame some people care so little that they throw their rubbish onto the road in the first place,” she said.

Inquiries email Paul at