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Restoring the land . . . Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Liam Mavor (16) plants native trees during last week’s Creek Boys working day. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The importance of retaining the heritage of Muddy Creek is not lost on a group of Waitaki Boys’ High School pupils.

For years, the creek – which runs through the front of the school – was left blocked, scattered with rubbish and overgrown.

Walking past it as they came into the school grounds did not sit right with the pupils, so the Waitaki Boys’ outdoor education class set out to do something about it.

Led by their teacher, Nigel Ryburn, the 11 pupils created the Creek Restoration Project – nicknamed Creek Boys – to remove the rubbish, old trees, clean up the area and plant native shrubs along the bank.

Their project came to life last Wednesday thanks to the group winning a national Rabobank competition for a $5000 grant, and a day’s help with labour.

About 50 people, including school pupils and Envirogroup members and Waitaki Girls’ High School pupils and support staff, took to the tools clearing the area and planting native plants including toi toi, cabbage trees and harakeke.

Waitaki Boys’ pupil Eli Johnson (16) said natives were important, and being able to get the project off the ground was exciting.

“[Everyone’s] getting into it. [It’s] the atmosphere – everyone’s enjoying it by the looks of it,” Eli said.

Liam Mavor (16) said the plants allowed for a nicer outlook when pupils and visitors came into the school.

The school had a responsibility to restore the creek, and encouraged its pupils to take ownership of the grounds, assistant rector Robert van Booma said.

Watching them lead the project and identify the importance of the creek to the school, and wider community, was fulfilling.

“It blows my mind. They’re fantastic boys, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Mr van Booma said.

“They are boys who come from town and out on farms, and they were self-motivated to do it. They’ve got a natural inclination to want to help around the environment.”

It was hoped by cleaning up the area, more of the community would be inclined to spend time visiting the school grounds, he said.

North Otago Sustainable Land Management supported the project, and engagement officer Bridget McNally said it was great to see the group identify the need and follow it through.

Further phases of the project will be completed later on, including ecological DNA testing on the creek.