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The Rai-Pelorus Valley a Rural Community with Vision and Heart – by Barbara Stuart

Submitted by on January 24, 2014 – 6:00 am
Planting for the rivers -  Kenny and Orla Kyle

Planting for the rivers – Kenny and Orla Kyle

A farmer lead community nursery has brought people together to plant seedlings alongside waterways in the Rai Valley, leading to significant improvement of water quality in the area.

The Rai-Pelorus Valley a Rural Community with Vision and Heart – by Barbara Stuart

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 planted Pinus Radiata on the steep hills. The forestry camp has closed and the once vibrant Rai Valley Tavern is a forlorn remnant of better times. The community is still dependent on 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.

High rainfall in the Rai and Pelorus catchments, which flow into the estuary at Havelock are integral to the surrounding communities for irrigation and recreation, enhancing its ability to thrive and survive. This important understanding has brought everyone together at the farmer led community nursery.

The nursery is the vision of local farmers Orla and Kenny Kyle. The Kyle’s wanted to set up the volunteer nursery so

The old Rai Tavern

The old Rai Tavern

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 and Game Council, Department of Conservation, King Salmon and local volunteers to make this all 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 and 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 conditions of supply have made fencing dairy cows out of waterways mandatory for all their suppliers, planting streams is a personal option. Scientific research predicts buffering streams will reduce farm run-off entering the Rai and Pelorus rivers and keep it 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.

Enjoying - Outward Bound Students at Rai Fall

Enjoying – Outward Bound Students at Rai Fall

At the recent Morgan Foundations awards the Rai River was recognised as the most improved in Marlborough. Council staff accepting the award credited the work of farmers who adopted the Council programme for bridging and culverting streams for improved water quality trends and the uptake of better management of dairy shed effluent. They also commended the community nursery initiative as another important step toward seeing those trends continue.

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