Rakaia is a rural community set on the Canterbury Plains 50 kilometers south of Christchurch. The township of over 1000 people was established on the southern side of the Rakaia River at its major crossing. The original road and rail bridge was built in 1873. The present road bridge was opened in 1939 and spans 1.8 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 Rakaia is the Salmon capital of New Zealand with the river yielding salmon and trout. Recreational rafting, kayaking, jet-boating, 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 kilometres 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, while 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 a blaze of colour. Rakaia is abounding with creative and talented people: artisans creating pottery, floral art, oil and water colours, home spun knitwear - all with a unique, local flair. Rakaia is rich in sporting and social amenities including a well appointed Sports Domain, equestrian course, swimming pool, golf course, squash and tennis courts, bowling greens, Primary School, Community Centre Library, Playcentre, Medical Centre, Fire Station, several Churches and two popular pubs. The town has good shopping facilities and an increasing number of eating places Rakaia is known for its friendly people who make an extra effort to make newcomers welcome. Many voluntary social and sporting groups thrive to make the community a most interesting place.