Students from a Rarotonga school have learned a few things about Whangarei while visiting.

The weather is colder, the roads are different, but pollution is a problem in both places.

Whangarei's Huanui College and Rarotonga's Titikaveka College may be oceans apart but both schools have been collaborating on a sustainability project focusing on the impact pollution has on land and sea.

Huanui College students visited Titikaveka College late last year and last week 27 students from the Rarotonga school were in Whangarei.

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Titikaveka College student Mary Ngamata performing a solo dance. Photo/John Stone
Titikaveka College student Mary Ngamata performing a solo dance. Photo/John Stone

Mary Ngamata, a 15-year-old student from Titikaveka College, said while the weather was different, and getting from one place to another was not as simple as going clockwise or anti-clockwise, the students were having fun.

"It's been really fun and really cold too. Everyone's getting sick. But so far I'm enjoying it and I don't want to go home yet," she said.

Brenda Rudolph, principal of the junior college at Huanui College, said the relationship between the two schools started because she used to teach at another school in Rarotonga and was asked if she could foster a relationship between Huanui and a school in the Cook Islands.

"I did some work with sustainability over there. It's great for students to see the impact of pollution on smaller islands," she said.

Mary said she learned that Whangarei faced similar pollution problems to Rarotonga.

"We've been looking at how we can keep our environment clean, how we can sustain it. We have problems [in Rarotonga] with littering in the schools and pollution, from the businesses like restaurants and hotels, going into the lagoon," she said.

Since arriving in Whangarei last Sunday they had been doing a range of activities from visiting the Marsden Point Oil Refinery to playing Laser Maze.

"We were planting trees and getting rid of invasive plants which could endanger the trees we planted.

"We went to Matapouri Beach and did a really long walk in bare feet and it was so sore," she said.

The first two days the students stayed at Ngunguru Marae where they were welcomed with a powhiri.

Mary, who is part Maori, said she was glad her classmates got to experience the other side of her culture.

"It [marae visit] was a first time thing for them so it was really exciting."

On Thursday Titikaveka College gave Huanui College a taste of the Cook Islands through music, dancing and haka.

Their last day in Whangarei was on Friday.