Wall art boosts Rakaia's tourism gateway

Published: 16 January 2023

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The Rakaia Salmon Reserve on SH1 has gained two more colourful features that will help tourists discover more about the Ashburton District.

Two huge vinyl images have been fixed to the ends of the reserve’s new public toilets – one is an aerial shot of the iconic, braided Rakaia River and the other is a map of the district showing main roads and tourist attractions. Both images are about 2.7 metres x 2.5 metres and have been applied to the exterior walls of the building.

The artwork is a collaboration between Council and the Rakaia Lions, and both organisations have worked together over the past two years to revitalise the reserve, which is famous for its giant fibreglass salmon.

The transformation over time has included the new public conveniences, which are some of the flashest and busiest in the district, and an historical walk with interpretive signs that tell the story of Rakaia.

The historic panels cover a range of topics, from facts about the nearby Rakaia River to early inhabitants of the town and how the surrounding land is farmed. The first settlers had to navigate the tricky Rakaia River before rail and road bridges were built, and many drowned in its fast-flowing waters.

The new artwork was installed last week by Juice Signs on behalf of Council.

The photograph of the river was taken by Methven photographer Bill Irwin and it shows the winding shingle riverbed and channels. The map shows Mid Canterbury from the sea to the mountains and highlights main travel routes and other towns and tourist attractions.

Tourists can also see features of the Ashburton Lakes / Ōtuwharekai, where the national walking trail Te Araroa crosses the district, and the location of the Mt Somers track.

Council’s Democracy and Engagement Group Manager Toni Durham said the artwork had been attracting lots of positive attention since it was installed.

“Rakaia is the gateway to the Ashburton District from Christchurch International Airport and this project helps people navigate their journey along the coast or inland to the high country.

“Creating images of that size for printing was a challenge, and Council staff spent a lot of time making sure the images were sharp and the information accurate.

“The Rakaia Lions have provided information, labour and plenty of passion for the reserve’s redevelopment too, so it’s been a really good collaboration.”

Another new facility opened in Rakaia recently to help tourists and travellers is the motor caravan wastewater dump station at the end of Ferguson Street, on land between Railway Terrace and the railway lines.

Map of Rakaia and district

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