Connecting communities . . . A Waitaki Valley School biodiversity education day was held at the Hakataramea River in February, supported by the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective as part of the community hub project. PHOTO: SUPPLIED/CHLOE LODGE PHOTOGRAPHY

The Hakataramea Sustainability Collective (HSC) has been given a $610,000 boost by the Government.

Last week, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced the South Canterbury group would receive $550,000 over three years to support landowners in the Hakataramea Valley to farm more sustainably, through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ productive and sustainable land use programme (PSLU).

‘‘This funding will enable the collective to develop an integrated environmental plan specific to the 89,000ha Hakataramea catchment, and carry out demonstration projects,’’ Mr O’Connor said.

‘‘Landowners will be able to use catchmentspecific resources and research to grow their skills and capability, and strengthen their individual farm environment plans.’’

The collective’s PSLU project leader Sarah Elliot said the committee was ‘‘over the moon” to secure the Government funding, and excited about the difference it would make in the community. Every rural community had its own environmental challenges, and the HSC was looking forward to being able to develop a plan that was specific to Hakataramea.

The HSC became an incorporated society five years ago, formed to protect and enhance the valley environment, promote profitable and sustainable farming practices and support and nurture the area’s vibrant and strong community.

‘‘We’ve been around and working away, on majority volunteer hours, through that time, and have a good track record of successful projects,’’ she said.

The HSC also received $60,000 through MPI’s rural community hubs programme. It received $30,000 from the same fund last year, to set up a hub to build resilience and support wellbeing in the community.

Mrs Elliot said funding covered several projects, including a biodiversity education project, in partnership with the Waitaki Valley School, to establish a community native nursery in Kurow. Another project coming up was improving connectivity in the valley to address safety concerns.

‘‘They’re all projects that build on community resilience for our valley — and that’s not just about farmers, it’s about everyone that lives in the valley.’’

The HSC was ‘‘very grateful’’ for the funding it had received from MPI, other industry bodies and the local business community.

‘‘We look forward to doing further work and pulling together all the stakeholders involved, with the valley, on these new projects.’’