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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]


Rakaia, in the county of Ashburton, is situated on the south bank of the river Rakaia, and is thirty-six miles from Christchurch on the main south line at its junction with the branch line to Methven. Previous to the completion of the Rakaia bridge, which spans the large tract of water and shingle forming the river, and is over a mile in length, the township consisted of a hotel, a store, and one or two other buildings, and was about half a mile distant from the present town. On the opening of the railway the township was removed to its present position. At first it gave promise of developing into a very important town, but the more central situation of Ashburton gave advantages which enabled it to become the chief town of central Canterbury. Still Rakaia is a prosperous township with several large general stores, two good hotels, a court-house, a town hall, Masonic hall, a bank, four churches, and with monthly sales, which are largely attended by the farmers of the surrounding districts. The population of the township is about 450, and its affairs are governed by the Rakaia Road Board. The ratable value of the whole road district is about £487,680, and the rate is one farthing in the £. The district is intersected by over 300 miles of well formed roads, many of which are well adapted for cycling. Close to the township, there is a fine domain and recreation ground, and large swimming baths. The land in the district is of first-class quality, and the grain crops average from fifty to eighty bushels per acre. The introduction of water races has conferred a priceless benefit upon the farmer, who, before, had to cart water for his stock from the Rakaia river, which is ten miles away from some of the homesteads in the district. Now the farmers have never failing supplies running through their paddocks,—a change which has made the condition of the district one of prevailing prosperity. The farmers of the Rakaia district fatten large number of sheep and lambs for freezing and export. In directions the landscape is dotted with numerous plantations, and belts of ornamental shelter trees modify the effects of the fierce north-west winds, and add to the beauty of the country, which abounds in handsome homesteads, that testify to the prosperity of the farmers.

The Bridges, Rakaia Gorge.

The Bridges, Rakaia Gorge.

Mr. C. A. C. Hardy, Member for Selwyn in the House of Representatives, and a Justice of the Peace for New Zealand, was born in Ireland. Since his arrival in the colony he has been engaged in business, and has for some years carried on a large general store at Rakaia. He was first elected member for Selwyn in 1900, and was re-elected in 1902, for the same district. Mr. Hardy has taken an active interest in the public affairs of his district. He is chairman of the North Canterbury Board of Education, and a member of several other local governing bodies.

Rokeby School. This school is situated six miles from South Rakaia, and is built on a section of two acres of land, partly the gift of Mr. Robert Magson. It consists of one room, which will accommodate twenty-four children, and there are twenty on the roll, with an average attendance of sixteen. All the standards are taught.

Mr. P. E. Laraman, the Master, was born at Templeton in 1871, educated at South Rakaia, and appointed to his present position in 1892. He holds in E3 certificate. Mr. Laraman has always taken an active part in football, cricket, and running, and on more than one occasion has carried his colours to the front.

Chesson, Herbert, M.R.C.S., (England), L.R.C.P., (London). Physician and Surgeon, Rakaia. Dr. Chesson was born in England, and educated in London, where he studied at St. Mary's Hospital, and took his degrees in 1894. he had charge of the Barrow-in-Furness Hospital, until 1896, when he went to Australia. Dr. Chesson was in the Government service in Queensland for some years, and took up his practice at Rakaia, in January, 1903.

The Railway Hotel. (A. Craighead. proprietor, South Rakaia. This is the principal hotel in Rakaia, and is situated conveniently near the railway station at the junction of the Methven and Christchurch-Dunedin railway lines; it is also near the bank, the post and telegraph office. The hotel is a handsome wooden building of twenty-nine rooms, and the accommodation generally is equal to that obtainable at the leading city hotels. It had a large dining room, a commercial page 787 and reading room, a private sitting room, comfortable single and double bedrooms, bathrooms with hot and cold water laid on, and a large billiard room. At a livery and bait stable connected with the hotel guests and travellers always can obtain saddle horses for ladies and gentlemen, single and double buggies, and waggonettes for picnic parties. The bar, which is stocked with wines and spirits of the best quality, is separated from the part of the building which is devoted to the general accommodation of guests, to whose comfort and convenience both Mr. and Mrs Craighead give the most cordial and considerate attention. The Rakaia district has many attractions, as the people are prosperous, cordial and hosptiable, and the landscape is studded with handsome homesteads and numerous plantations. There is a fine bracing quality in the air, the joint product of the sea, about ten miles distant on the one hand, and of the Southern Alps, about twenty miles off, on the other. the Rakaia abounds in trout of notable size and excellence, and hares are numerous in the district, so that tourists, fishers, and sportsmen often visit the place, and all find a warm welcome and comfortable quarters.

Mr. Alexander Craighead, the Proprietor of the Railway Hotel, was born in Scotland, and came to New Zealand in 1874 by the ship “Dunedin.” He held positions in various parts of Canterbury, and took the Lake Te Kapo hotel, in the Mackenzie Country, in 1894, and carried it on for two years. In 1897 he bought the lease of the Railway Hotel at Rakaia, and has converted it into one of the leading hotels in New Zealand. Mr. Craighead married Miss O'Sullivan, and they have a family of five children.