While stormwater drains should be for draining stormwater - a group of Northland students have discovered plastic, cigarette butts, paper and more rubbish is also making its way down the drain.

Hurupaki Primary School's year 3 and 4 students dedicated term 3 to finding out the answer to the question: What really goes down our drains?

The students, with the help of the Drains to Harbour programme, have been learning about freshwater habits and the threats of stormwater pollution.

Part of the programme involved installing an enviropod in a drain next to the school gate. The enviropod collects all the debris that falls down the drain while allowing water to flow through the mesh.


After sitting in the drain for six weeks the children were disappointed to find lots of rubbish had made its way down the drain, along with sticks and leaves.

"When we pulled [the enviropod] up I was surprised that there was plastic, glass, bottle tops, paper, cigarette butts and rubber- yuck," said year 4 student Kaja Haenga-Plank.

As well as looking through the contents of the enviropod, students visited Otepapa Stream where they discovered a huge amount of life living in there.

Harriet Thomas, Drains to Harbour co-ordinator, said while the stream was in a good condition and relatively healthy, the same could not be said for many other Whangarei waterways.

"Unfortunately, many of Whangarei's waterways are not so healthy, and we don't see the variety of life living in them that we used to. It is important that people realise anything that goes down our waterways which eventually lead to the sea, potentially harming aquatic life on the way," she said.

The last part of the programme saw students put what they had learned into action within the community. Many students created displays, wrote plays and a puppet show, produced video clips and designed posters all aimed to create awareness of stormwater pollution and freshwater habitats in the wider community.

The Drains to Harbour programme is an environmental education programme, funded by the Whangarei District Council, created to increase awareness around stormwater pollution.