When Masterton’s Chester Thawley saw the state of one of his local reserves, he knew something had to be done about it.
And so, the 10-year-old Opaki School student gathered the troops and got cleaning.
It all started when he visited the Tirohanga Wilton Family Reserve – best known as Double Bridges – with his family last month.
They had gone down to pick some blackberries, but noticed the area was littered with rubbish; small items like cans, and larger household items as well.
“We found some really weird stuff like a washing machine, dead animals… credit cards, cameras and phones, and lots of single-use plastics that had just been dumped there,” Chester said.
The following week, he suggested that the Opaki School Enviro Group should go down to the reserve for a rubbish clean-up.
Armed with big black rubbish bags, a dozen students picked up all the rubbish they could find, and the larger items were taken to a skip bin.
“Since the rubbish was so close to the river, if it got flooded, it would all end up in the river which would then go out to the ocean and kill all the wildlife,” Chester said.
He said that, before the clean-up, everybody could see that “this was no reserve, but a rubbish dump instead”.
He advised people that the next time they saw rubbish, to “pick it up – don’t put it down”.
Chester has a heightened environmental awareness thanks to his school’s participation in the Enviroschools programme, which teaches students how to take action to improve the physical and social environment for their communities.
“We are a bronze Enviroschool,” Chester said.
“So, we’ve been doing some weeding in the garden, we have leafcutter bees to help pollinate the plants…we have planted trees, and I myself have made weta motels so they have homes.”
Upon saying this, Chester ran over to a tree in the school’s garden where his weta motel was attached and opened a latch to reveal what was inside.
Although there were no wetas that day, it was expected they would use the ‘motel’ to crawl into and be safe from predators like rats, mice, stoats, cats, birds and hedgehogs.