A Northland man has vowed to clean up tonnes of rubbish dumped into a once pristine creek before he dies.
Tony Makiha, an artist from Waima in South Hokianga, said rubbish had been dumped down a bank off Old School Rd, near State Highway 12 and Waima School, for years.
The waste, which included "heaps" of used nappies, bottles, old machinery, corrugated iron and a fridge, spilled into a creek which flowed into the Waima River and eventually into the Hokianga Harbour.
What also upset Mr Makiha was that the dumping ground was part of a historic site where Hone Toia and his men hid from British forces in the Dog Tax War of the 1890s, a rebellion against a Hokianga County Council tax which was seen as particularly punitive to Maori.
Mr Makiha put out a call for help on social media and was heartened when 17 people turned out last Saturday, including three who had travelled from Wellington to take part.
The volunteers collected 480kg of rubbish which was picked up by the council. Mr Makiha had earlier arranged the removal of four abandoned cars.
"I've been trying to clean it up forever but it was too hard. My old man said, 'Leave it to me', but he died a few years ago. Now I've put my hand up."
Mr Makiha said a brain aneurism he had suffered some years ago made the job difficult but he was stubborn.
"I want to get rid of that rubbish before I die."
His message for the dumpers is simple: "Don't ever do it again. Remember your whakapapa, where we came from."
During Saturday's clean-up volunteers found evidence of the dumpers' identity in the form of old community services cards. They will be passed on to the Far North District Council.
Mr Makiha's efforts have the full backing of Kiri Danielle, who cleans up dump sites and tracks down the perpetrators in the Maori TV series Kaitiaki Wars.
She helped him enlist support from the council, which supplied six flexibins and covered the costs of collecting them and disposing of their contents.
Ms Danielle said it was just one of many examples around the country of councils and communities working together to combat illegal dumping.
"We've rested on our clean, green image for too long, and we're ruining it. We can clean New Zealand and we must," she said.
A council spokesman said staff would investigate and could take enforcement action if evidence identifying the perpetrators was found.
The dump site is on private land near Mr Makiha's property.
- Mr Makiha is planning another clean-up just before Labour Weekend, when a festival is planned at Waima. Call him on 021 143 1963 if you want to help.