An example of rural groups working to improve their local communities.
The success of the primary sector hinges on having strong, vibrant and sustainable rural communities. For this reason, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Department of Internal Affairs provides funding support and advice to rural groups working to improve their local communities. Currently, there are some 20 rural community hubs around the country that are part of this initiative. One is Tapawera Connect, set up following the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, to identify the needs of the community scattered throughout the Motueka Valley in the Tasman region.
For Phoebe Quinlivian, who left behind a busy city life in Wellington five years ago, it is anything but a quiet life in the rural Tapawera region that she and her family now call home.
The region, which lies southwest of Nelson in the Motueka Valley, was established in the early 1900s when a railway line linking it with Nelson was constructed. These days the trip is about an hour by car and scattered throughout the region are 1200 people with the small town of Tapawera at the hub.
Described as an area in transition, the traditional land uses of dairy, beef and lamb farming are being replaced by other uses, including a resurgence in hop growing thanks, in part to the craft beer trend. In fact the local Tapawera pub serves locally brewed craft beer.
There is a Four Square shop, the hotel, a café, a campground, a community gym, a petrol station, and what is reputed to be one of the best and cheapest op shops in the country, plus the Tapawera Area School where Phoebe is a relieving teacher.
As the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown was easing, Phoebe stepped forward to found Tapawera Connect, one of 20-plus similar hubs around the country that are empowering isolated rural communities to tackle challenges, including recovery from the pandemic, and provide a range of educational, health, social and cultural activities.
Phoebe’s days, and many evenings, are jam-packed as she balances family, teaching and, in her Tapawera Connect role, identifying needs and bringing people together to connect in this community which is spread around the district of farms, orchards, lifestyle blocks and tiny settlements.
Supported by a committee of nine dedicated locals, she loves every moment of it. They talk to community members and service providers, supporting new wellbeing initiatives, keeping the local people informed, and collaborating with other community groups such as the Tapawera and Districts Community Council and Motueka Community House, also about an hour away by car.
With funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Department of Internal Affairs, these community hubs are based on the reality that the success of the primary sector hinges on having strong, vibrant and sustainable rural communities.
Supported by MPI’s senior regional adviser, Jenny Ridgen, who provides coaching and planning assistance, Tapawera Connect reaches out across all age groups, currently operating out of the local hall, the pub or the café, and from around kitchen tables.
In recent times activities have ranged from chainsaw safety and tree pruning workshops, to a governance course and refreshers for older drivers and courses for first aid, mindfulness and relaxation, and even making healthy snacks. There are cards evenings at the pub, tea and talk for seniors, and with young families in the district there is a youth group, as well as a group providing practical and wellbeing support for young mothers.
In planning is a course on governance to upskill anyone keen to become a board director, including getting involved as a school trustee. Phoebe says she is excited about the future for people living and working in the Tapawera region. “I have really enjoyed getting to know the people in my community. I love it that I can now stop and have a yarn with a friendly face – and I’m so proud to be part of such an outstandingly capable and empowered community.”
The aim of the rural community hubs is to strengthen the resilience and wellbeing of rural communities by:
- Assisting them to respond positively to change, including recovery from the impacts of COVID-19
- Building community cohesion and connections
- Improving employment prospects through training opportunities
- Improving access to wider government-funded services, such as health care or welfare assistance.
Communities seeking funding to establish a hub must:
- Be an organised rural community group that is registered as a legal entity or able to come under the umbrella of another legal entity
- Fit within the scope of the fund priorities
- Be either for a new initiative or a significant expansion in the scope or coverage of existing activities
- Apply for funding for a period of at least one year.
Communities interested in applying for funding will find information here: