Millan Ruka clearly remembers the moment he decided to start Environment River Patrol Aotearoa.
It was 2010 and he was visiting his family homestead in Kōkopu on the banks of the Wairua River.
Ruka grew up eeling, fishing, hunting and paddling in and around the river.
"We could not believe what we could see. The clarity of the water evoked huge concern, it should have been crystal clear."
Since then he has been passionate and relentless in pursuit of cleaning up waterways.
His efforts have been recognised by being appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for services to conservation in the Queen's Birthday honours today.
Ruka said the news had been very much a surprise, but he was honoured.
"I graciously accept and share with Ngā Whenua Rāhui and Te Wai Māori Trust. Without their support the impact of my river work would certainly be much less."
He almost didn't accept the honour. Ruka admits he couldn't have accepted if plans for Zodiac Holdings to take water from Porotī Springs had continued. However, the consents and land were recently bought by the Crown.
Ruka said that move had "laid a foundation that looks hopeful for our hapu".
He established Environmental River Patrol Aotearoa and obtained vehicles, equipment, a river boat and kayaks to access waterways to GPS photograph, document and report effluent discharges, direct stock trampling and spoiling waterways.
Ruka has submitted more than 700 reports to local councils, government agencies, media, businesses, schools, and communities regarding the need to help waterways.
He has presented at seminars and environmental forums and written multiple submissions towards local and national policy documents.
Ruka has instigated hundreds of kilometres of fencing to exclude stock from waterways.
Northland Regional Council employed extra land management staff and allocated funds to assist owners to fence waterways, directly in response to his reporting work. He has advocated for his hapu of Porotī and Mangakahia to have their values recognised in improving water quality.
Ruka has been Porotī Springs coordinator for Whatitiri Maori Reserves Trust since 2010 and a committee member of Waimarie o Whatitiri Marae Trust since 2013.
He is a support member of the Integrated Kaipara Harbour Management Group.
At the 2016 New Zealand River Awards Ruka received the Voice of the River award. In 2013 he was awarded the Local Hero Award in the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year awards.
While Ruka is honoured to be appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, the job is not finished.
"Lawful, respectful but effective river management. That's the goal."
He said there is traffic control, noise control, but as yet there is no one patrolling the waterways.