Students from Whangaruru School had been learning about being proud of where they come from, so when they learnt that piles of rubbish had been illegally dumped alongside a local awa (river) - they cleaned it all up.

A total of 32 bags of rubbish and two trailer loads of fridges, couches and scrap metal were collected from an area of bush near the Punaruku awa by the school, local whanau and members from the Ngatiwai Resource Management team. Principal Jamie McQueen said the clean-up stemmed from a larger project about identity.

"At the beginning of the year, the kids were learning about being proud to be from here, and learning about identity. A feature of that was learning about maunga, awa and moana so we went on a walk up the mountains."

The senior students from the school visited Pukemoremore maunga and as a result passed by the Punaruku awa and saw the rubbish.

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"I knew there was illegal dumping there and I knew they wouldn't be down with that."

Last month, the pupils and their whanau got their hands dirty and cleaned the entire area, which covered about 2km, within two hours. Mr McQueen said the students were clearly angry the rubbish had been dumped there.