RAKAIA COMMUNITY ASSOCIATION
Rakaia is a particularly communityminded community.
The Canterbury township, 50km south of Christchurch, has a population of only about 1000, but there’s no shortage of local groups, clubs and teams.
“We’ve got our fire brigade, our Lions Club, rugby, soccer, netball, hockey, bowls, cards, libraries. When I created a list one day there were nearly 100 community groups,” says Rakaia Community Association (RCS) chair Neil Pluck.
A few years ago the RCA drove the creation of a trail for walking, biking and running along the edge of the Rakaia River. The walkway was immediately popular with the community, but to begin with, it wasn’t a circular track, he says.
“There was a missing link,” Neil says. “We had the trail on the river and people were using it, but to get from one part to the next, you walked along a tar-sealed stretch. There wasn’t even a footpath.”
So in 2016, the RCA approached the Ashburton District Council to suggest it cleared a 2ha disused piece of council land to link the two ends of the walk.
The land was covered in gorse, broom and blackberry 3m high. “You couldn’t even climb through, it was that thick.”
The RCA paid for contractors to clear and level the area, then volunteers created the trail and planted natives along it. There are pittosporum, kowhai,ˉ flaxes, hebes… and any other self-seeded natives green-fingered locals happen across.
“Probably 90 per cent of the plants we have used were donated,” Neil says. “Native plants pop up here, there and everywhere and the people who know what they are looking for just find them on their quarter-acre section.”
While many locals have been involved in the project, of particular note, Neil says, are Marie Smith who looks after the upkeep of the walkway; Dorothy Knight, who did the bulk of the planting in the new area; and Elma Hobson who has worked to make Rakaia a prettier and more pleasant place to live for years. Now 91, Elma and her husband George are still active volunteers. “She is still regularly turning up to help plant new shrubs,” Neil says. “And she always brings the scones for morning tea.”