Community with vision and heart

Marlborough’s Rai Valley has long been a forestry and dairying community. In days gone by Rai Valley cheese was a popular purchase for visitors, but now the once famous dairy factory has closed and local milk goes outside of the community for processing. The original pioneers depended on extractive forestry and later generations seeking to continue the industry planted Pinus Radiata on the steep hills. Now the forestry camp has closed and the once vibrant Rai Valley Tavern is a forlorn remnant of better times. The community still benefits from forestry and dairying but the raw logs and milk are no longer processed locally. These days the local Area School, Outward Bound Students, tourists and trout fishers, who stop while travelling through, have become important contributors to the local economy.

The high rainfall within the Rai & Pelorus catchments is essential to the surrounding communities, providing irrigation and recreation. This important understanding has brought everyone together. One such local initiative is a farmer led community nursery.

The nursery is the vision of Orla and Kenny Kyle. The Kyle’s wanted to set up the volunteer nursery so they could grow plants cheaply for landowners in the area. Plus they plan to make it easy for busy farmers to plant streams. Supported by the NZ Landcare Trust, the Kyle’s along with other farmers have teamed up with Outward Bound, NZ Fish & Game Council, Department of Conservation, King Salmon and local volunteers to make this happen.

The nursery has produced 10,000 seedlings this season; to be planted on farm streams next autumn and spring. Students from Outward Bound who do one Community Service day as part of their courses, help with potting up seedlings. Future courses will also be available to help with planting and weeding on farms.

The purpose of this community effort is improving water quality in their beautiful rivers. Fonterra's conditions of supply have made fencing dairy cows out of waterways mandatory for all their suppliers, however planting streams is a personal option. Scientific research predicts buffering streams will reduce farm run-off from entering the Rai and Pelorus rivers and keep them clean for Outward Bound Students who use the Rai Falls for kayaking and for the tourists at Pelorus Bridge. Social scientists also tell us that rural communities like the Rai-Pelorus who are long distances from major centres need a lot of help to make the changes required to meet environmental expectations of other New Zealanders.

At the Morgan Foundation NZ River Awards held in Novemeber 2013 the Rai River was recognised as the most improved in Marlborough. Council staff credited the work carried out by local farmers, who adopted the Council programme - bridging and culverting streams, and better management of dairy shed effluent that led to improved water quality trends. They also commended the community nursery initiative as another important step toward seeing those trends continue.

For more information about this work contact NZ Landcare Trust Regional Coordinator Barbara Stuart: