11 Mar 2016

Rakaia Welcomes You - A Snapshot of a Mid-Canterbury Community

From Country Life, 9:39 pm on 11 March 2016

Parts of the agricultural sector might be at a low ebb at the moment but in Rakaia, a township of about 1200 people in the heart of Mid-Canterbury's fertile faming country, there are about 60 active clubs and groups run by local volunteers who take pleasure in giving something back to the community.

Neil Pluck was brought up in Rakaia and now he runs a successful agricultural engineering business there. He employs 15 people in the business which was previously owned by his parents.

Neil is also chairperson of the Rakaia Community Association which makes sure there's a good relationship between the community, the local district council and politicians. He believes one of the biggest challenges at the moment is getting people into leadership roles in the community.

"It's not hard to get volunteers to help out but it's very hard to get that top person as everyone's so flat out these days," he says.

Elma Hobson and Liz Depree are two of those top people Neil is talking about.

Elma has been chairwoman of the local beautification subcommittee for many years and has been involved of several projects to make Rakaia more visually appealing. From landscaping the railway line and creating an arboretum out of scrubland near the Rakaia Bridge, to getting a 6 metre high by 36 metre long wall, that she considered an eyesore, painted into a mural which tells the story of the township.

Her latest project has been a recently published, 700 page book, about the history of the Rakaia district and apparently the first run has already sold out!

Liz is Chairperson of Rakaia Medical Trust, an unpaid position that comes with a considerable workload. One of the most difficult tasks recently has been finding a permanent doctor for the Medical Centre that has about 2200 clients on its books.

"Rakaia is seen as a bit isolated and lot of doctors aren't experienced enough or don't want to work in a sole practice. The other drawback for a lot of GPs are the on-call requirements."
Jeremy Duckmanton lives ten kilometres inland from Rakaia. He is a 50/50 sharemilker who is determined to remain optimistic about the future of dairy farming. He believes that this is where he and his family want to be in the long term and is developing cost cutting and management plans to ride out the current industry crisis.

Producer Cosmo Kentish-Barnes has woven old audio clips into the story from a 1950 Canterbury Pilgrimage programme about Rakaia. The series began on October 25, 1950, on 3YA in Christchurch and was broadcast twice weekly. The final Canterbury Pilgrimage programme aired on February 14, 1951. The recording is from the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision archives.