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Legacy . . . Waitaki Boys' High School environmental prefect Dylan Jones (left) and head boy Ethan Reille are getting ready for phase two of the school's creek restoration project. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The next phase of restoring one of Waitaki Boys’ High School’s “main pillars” is near.

The Oamaru secondary school’s creek restoration project launched last year, aiming to restore Muddy Creek/Porori Awa, which runs through the school and had been left overgrown, clogged and scattered with rubbish.

The project, led by past pupils Liam Mavor and Eli Johnson under former teacher Nigel Ryburn’s guidance, won a national Rabobank competition last April for a $5000 grant and a day’s help with labour.

That kick-started the first phase – unclogging the creek, clearing old trees and planting native shrubs in the area. A walkway along the creek was created and old steps next to a water well leading to the creek were uncovered.

New project leaders head boy Ethan Reille and environmental prefect Dylan Jones are preparing now to start the next phase.

Once it was completed, Ethan said the group would connect with local iwi to learn about the whenua (land), and have a pou, a Maori post, created to symbolise the significant project. Then, the neighbouring farms would turn on the irrigation, allowing water to run through the creek again.

“One of the important things is that we open it in our time here … and we’re passing that legacy on,” Ethan said.

“It’s something we can change now that’ll be here forever.”

Restoring the creek benefited the present pupils but also future generations at Waitaki Boys’, they said. Year 9s had taken an interest, digging parts of the creek during lunch and asking questions, while senior pupils took pride in helping change the entrance to their school.

“Boys walk over it, you drive over it … it’s a really big part of the school and there’s not one day that you don’t go past it and see it,” Ethan said.

“I think seeing the boys being quite passionate about something to do with the school that they can be part of, and change, and actually make history with, because we are making history right now.”

Dylan hoped past pupils could also return to the school and appreciate what had been achieved.

“If I was a student here say 10 years ago when [the creek] was horrible … and you saw the change, I feel like that would be quite special … that the students have done something to change it,” Dylan said.

The school’s new haka, created last year, also had a verse dedicated to the creek and the Waitaki River connection.

North Otago Sustainable Land Management (NOSLaM) supported the project from the start, and presented Liam and Eli with a stewardship award last year, recognising their dedication to the creek and the environment.

An official opening ceremony was planned once the project was completed.