Living In Rakaia

Rakaia is an amazing little piece of paradise that sits halfway to everywhere!

Photo Credit: Karen Hislop



“Heart of the South
Halfway to Everywhere
Gateway to the Winter Wonderland”

About Rakaia

Rakaia is an amazing little piece of paradise that sits halfway to everywhere.


Rakaia is a rural community set on the Canterbury Plains 50 kilometers south of Christchurch and 28 kilometers north of Ashburton. The township of over 1560 people was established on the southern side of the braided Rakaia River as its major crossing. The original road and rail bridge was built in 1873. The present road bridge was opened in 1939 and spans 1.9 kilometers of one of the world’s best examples of a ‘braided’ river. When constructed it was the longest bridge in the Southern Hemisphere. The bridge is the gateway to Mid-Canterbury and southbound travelers often turn westward over the bridge to explore the Southern Alps.

salmon capital of nz


History of Rakaia

Rakaia was founded in 1856. The first bridge was built in 1873 and the Rakaia Township burst into life. The expanding railways reached Rakaia on the Main South Line, making travel to the region quicker and safer. The opening of the Methven Branch Line railway in 1880 also facilitate smoother travel inland towards the mountains. As more and more settlers were drawn to the area with rich farming possibilities on offer, the town grew around the southern end of the bride and railway twenty kilometers inland from the river mouth.



rakaia demographics

The median age of the residents in 2018 census was 42.3 years old. In terms of ethnicity, 86.9% of residents identified as European, 12.9% identified as Maori and 5.2% identified as Pacifika, 3.3% as Asian and 1.7% other ethnicities.

Rakaia River Flood      Photo Credit:

Year Established


Bridge Length

South of Christchurch


rakaia Today

Rakaia is the Salmon capital of New Zealand with the river yielding salmon and trout. Recreational rafting, kayaking, jetboating, horse trekking, rock-hounding, and bird watching are also attractive activities on this accessible river. during the fishing season between October and April, anglers can be seen lining the river mouth 20 kilometers east of the town. The Rakaia Salmon Fishing Competition held at the end of  February is extremely popular. Rakaia is renowned for its fertile, alluvial soil, either washed or blown down the plains. Horticulture and arable farming enjoy ideal conditions with sheep, deer (and more recently) dairy farms are established throughout the area. A rural servicing town, Rakaia has a growing industrial commercial base with innovative engineering firms specialising in agricultural and marine products. Gardening – from the backyard hobby to the landscaped estates – is a popular pastime and between spring and autumn, the area is ablaze of colour. Rakaia is abounding with creative and talented people: artisans creating pottery, floral art, oil and watercolours,  homespun knitwear – all with a unique, local flair. Rakaia is rich in sporting and social amenities including a Sports Domain, equestrian course, swimming pool, golf course, squash and tennis courts, well-appointed bowling greens, Primary School, Community Centre Library, Playcentre, Toy Library, Medical Centre, Fire Station, several Churches and two popular pubs. The town has good shopping facilities and an increasing number of eating places such as fish n’ chips, Indian and an Azteca Taco mobile van. Rakaia is known for its friendly people who make an extra effort to make newcomers welcome. Many voluntary social and sporting groups thrive on making the community more interesting.

These groups all function on volunteer manpower with all hands to the deck. Making yourself known and putting your hand up to assist is the best way to enjoy your new move to this piece of paradise.


Everyone that has lived in Rakaia and its’ district have made a contribution to the building and development of  resources and services in the town.

Photo Credit: Doreen Barns

What is available

Sports Facilities

Sports Domain catering for our sports keen community.


Medical & Social

Medical Centre, Physiotherapy, Social and Wellbeing Coaches.


Memorial Hall, Library, Swimming Pool, Parks, Dog Park.


Rakaia is a self-sufficient little town, in the Ashburton District, with all the big town services provided.

  • Medical Centre with two resident Doctors, Nurses, Social and Wellbeing Coaches
  • Physiotherapist
  • Postal Boxes (available 7am – 11pm – inside Mobil)
  • Local Policeman
  • Library
  • Toy Library
  • Exercise Groups / Line Dancing
  • Community Newspaper – Rakaia News
  • Land Search & Rescue
  • Memorial Community Hall and Supper Room
  • Fire Square Supermarket
  • Service Centre and Mechanics
  • Two Service Stations – Mobil with full services and cafe, and Self Serve NPD
  • Fire Brigade
  • Friendship Group
  • Cubs and Scouts
  • Primary School to Year 8
  • Buses to Intermediate & High Schools
  • BMX Track
  • Preschool Day Care & Playcentre
  • Sports Domain catering for Rugby, Football, Netball, Hockey, Bowls, Tennis, Squash, Park
  • Dog Park
  • Family Camp Grounds
  • Walk Ways
  • Plunket
  • Social Service Groups, Foodbank, Community Sharing Shed
  • Access to the River

Local Services Opening Hours


  • Tuesday 2 – 4 pm
  • Thursday 6.30 – 8 pm
  • Saturday 10.30 am – 12.30 pm

MEDICAL CENTRE & Physiotherapist

  • Monday 8.30 am – 5 pm
  • Tuesday 8.30 am – 8 pm
  • Wednesday – Friday 8.30 am – 5 pm
  • Phone: 03 303 5002


  • Bookings to:

Organisations & clubs in rakaia

Rakaia - Kennedys Karate
Rakaia Softball club
Rakaia Marine Confederacy
Feel Good Fitness For You
Rakaia Pony Club
Rakaia Friendship Group
Rakaia Line Dancing
Rakaia Scout Group
Rakaia Ploughing


Rakaia Tech



The Rakaia township and settlement (area) are part of the Ashburton District Council.

Rates bills are sent to individual home owners for rates which fund the upkeep of these services.

  • Water Bore
  • Sewer
  • Storm Drains
  • Roads
  • Winter Road Grit
  • Garbage Collection – Week Two Cycle
  • Resource Dump Facility
  • Library
  • Swimming Pool
  • Parks

River & Traffic


Check out Waka Kotahi traffic map to see the conditions of the roads and flow of traffic at the time of your expected travel. There are cameras situated at either end of the bridge that shows the flow.

See button below.


The Rakaia River starts on the west coast of the South Island and meanders through the Southern Alps to find its way to the Canterbury Plains. It is fed by the rains on the west and from the melting snow, which can give rise to the water levels.

The levels of the river are of great interest in the community, not because of floods which do happen occasionally but due to the fascination with the change of the river from braided to edge to edge.

These river levels can be watched on the NIWA website which shows the flow of the river hour by hour and receive text message when river levels are of concern.

See button below.