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Blink and you’ll miss it; but nestled in the hills of the Maniototo is a small town with a big personality. With just over 100 residents, Oturehua is a place full of spirited characters, who work together to make things happen.

This is a truly magical place, and the community spirit of the town is all around you. If something needs done or someone needs help, they make it happen. They have a community owned and operated water scheme, they mow the lawns in public areas, and they make sure things are fixed when they break. They are a raw example of bottom-up, community-led development. Oturehua has an active community-led plan group that meets once every two months, and a community newsletter that is distributed once a month.

Positioned along the Rail Trail, Oturehua is a popular spot for cyclists to stop for a drink and use the toilet. While many towns have public toilets managed by local councils, Oturehua has a community run toilet—people sign up to a roster and take turns with cleaning responsibilities, and a donation box helps raise funds for cleaning supplies and toilet paper. The toilet is positioned right outside of the community hall, which the community also take care of themselves, undertaking any necessary hall maintenance, and raising funds or applying for grants if larger jobs are required.

The local shop, Gilchrist’s, still in its original condition, has been serving the community since 1902, and is a central communication point for Oturehua residents. Get your birthday in the local newsletter, and the Pub will shout you a free drink when you go in for your birthday meal. These small gestures can have a big impact, and it is heart-warming to see how everybody in Oturehua operates as a team; it’s more than that though.

The community has been active for years in finding ways to bring people together, and attract visitors to their slice of paradise. They hold a major regional event every year called the Brass Monkey Rally, which motorcyclists have made their way to for 39 years running, to camp outside in the late autumn chill. The final year of the event will be in 2020, and will mark the 40 year anniversary of Brass Monkey. The event is organised by a committee of volunteers, who come together with a shared vision and love of their place. In 2019, the community hosted the inaugural Under Rough Ridge Writer’s Retreat with nationally renowned authors and poets who live locally in Oturehua. The event sold out very quickly, resulting in a waiting list for those who didn’t get in fast enough! The organising committee plans to make this an annual event in Oturehua.

These grassroots initiatives are the embodiment of community-led development, and contribute to the uniqueness of Oturehua. The community likes the quiet, rough and rural terrain of Oturehua. It is this quaintness that brings people together, to protect what they love, while promoting and invigorating their place at the same time.

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