There is a small group of people in a small valley called Hakataramea who are quietly working away at making their community the best it can be.
The Hakataramea Sustainability Collective came together about five years ago as a way of ensuring knowledge between generations was not lost, chairwoman Juliet Gray said.
“It sort of came from that next generation coming back into the valley, or new people coming into the valley. There was a lot of talk about ‘how do we keep that flow of information from the people before us, going through?’.”
Another driver was the introduction of “Plan Change 5” by Environment Canterbury to manage the loss of soil nutrients from farming.
“So, we just wanted to get a group together that could encourage and support farmers in sharing of information from previous years, and also sharing new information and innovation that was happening outside of our valley,” Mrs Gray said.
The group received a lot of support from NZ Landcare Trust and its then regional co-ordinator, Janet Gregory, had been instrumental in helping to set it up. She was now South Island lead, extension services with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), and continued to offer “huge support”.
A boost of $30,000 in community hub funding from MPI at the beginning of this year had been instrumental in helping the collective achieve some of its objectives, Mrs Gray said.
“We were really lucky … because that’s been our issue.
“We’ve had some great ideas, great plans, great people giving lots of time, but we have really struggled to get funding.”
The money was to “develop resilient communities” which had led to the group widening its objectives from a farmer-education focus to more of a community focus.
“We’ve got lots of big dreams and ideas and yeah, this year it’s been exciting, because we’ve actually been able to see a few of those move forward, with the funding.
“We’ve been able to afford to employ a part-time administrator. That has lightened the voluntary load a wee bit, which is great.”
The group had created an information pack for newcomers to the area, was in the process of developing an emergency plan for the area with the Waimate District Council, and had carried out a Swot (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis on the valley.
“It was quite interesting to see the things that came out of that. There is lots of worry around Government legislation and what’s coming at us, which we all knew.”
What made the collective successful in its work was the backing of the community, which was made up of about 86 families, she said.
“We’ve got a really supportive network, and that’s something we knew. We’ve always been a vibrant, strong, great community.”
Rather than being a lobby group, the collective was a “communication group”, which tried to find out what the community wanted and help to make it happen.
“So, everyone was keen on a recycle drop-off centre.
“You know, we pay rates, and we had to go to Waimate .. so we managed to get a drop-off centre just by working with the Waimate District Council .. so those sorts of things.”
It was less about complaining, and more about “increasing proactive conversations with our stakeholders outside the community, really”.
“Finding the right people to have the conversations with, and getting them to come along and talk to us,” Mrs Gray said.
The collective had 15 committee members, who brought with them a wide variety of resources, knowledge and expertise.
It was in the process of creating a website, which would be a source of information for visitors to the valley, as well as containing information for community members.
Other objectives of the collective were to maintain water quality of the Hakataramea River, educate on the importance of braided rivers and encourage the protection of its natural character; protecting and enhancing ecological values of the valley; and weed and pest eradication.
A farm-focused workshop series was also run about every three months, on topics such as winter and summer grazing, and also the challenges of the new government legislation, Mrs Gray said.
“We’ve had people outside bringing some good knowledge in, and those sorts of things provide the opportunity to have a discussion afterwards.
“Half the value comes from that just getting together and talking about it. Everyone’s in the same boat.”
The turnout and community support for the field days and workshops was “outstanding”, she said.
The collective also worked closely with Waitaki Valley School, which had a beehive and a garden and “just a great culture around the environment and rural living”.