NZDF service personnel have spent the week collecting rubbish from the Whanganui River to help the Tamaupoko Community-Led Trust build an environmental plan.
Thirteen servicemen from New Zealand Army and Air Force and four Canadian servicemen walked the Whanganui River to collect rubbish and GPS hot spotted any illegal dumping.
For the service personnel, it was part of their Aumangea leadership programme where they had to carry out community service.
For the Tamaupoko Community-Led Trust, the programme was able to tie in with their own strategic plan of looking after the environment said trustee Siobhan Marshall.
"I guess it's sad that they have to come and pick up our rubbish but it builds awareness that we need to change, need to change our ways," Marshall said.
A group of nine servicemen kicked off the week by restoring a World War II monument at Waitotara, where the Waipapa Marae was once situated before it was moved due to flooding.
In a day's work the men cleaned it, cleared it, repainted it and relayed the stones.
They then joined another group of eight servicemen who had started at Pipiriki and walked up the Whanganui River to collect rubbish, starting at the other end to then meet them in the middle.
Every day the personnel began walking at 8am and finished up around 5pm, usually without breakfast or lunch, only water.
Any rubbish they could not reach or get to safety they would GPS hot spot and record it to collect at a later stage.
They also used a jet boat to collect any rubbish on the river.
Tamaupoko Community-Led trustee, Tiara Ranginui went out on the jet boat and said they recorded a car, an oven and a couple of bags of rubbish towards Jerusalem.
The two teams stopped at some of the settlements along the way to spend time in the communities on different projects.
They went to Jerusalem to work with the community on their marae and another group went to Ranana to help refurbish an old house the community hopes to turn into a community hub in the near future.
"It was all overgrown and the boys got in there with the weed eater and grubbers to tidy it up and I explained to them that they don't necessarily know the impact they're having with the work they're doing," Marshall said.
Marshall said she believes the service personnel really enjoyed having the connection with the community.
"They were just doing what they were told they were doing all this community work but make sure they understood they have had a positive impact," Marshall said.
Another project one group worked on was digging out items that had been submerged into the ground on surrounding farms near the settlements.
Every night the personnel would write up reports from their day detailing items found, the location and the environment.
Marshall said the trust will now gather all the data and make a plan on how they can use it to make a project that will change attitudes.
"We want to change mindsets of our people so they are aware of the rubbish that been dumped in our local areas," Ranginui said.