Innovative Ruatoria locals doing the hard yards to turn their struggling town around



Seven Sharp

Small town population decline is a global phenomenon and New Zealand is no exception, as all over the country small towns are getting even smaller.

Gill Higgins visited Ruatoria where locals are trying to build their own futures.
Source: Seven Sharp

One town that is hoping to buck this trend is Ruatoria, a town in the Waiapu Valley of the Gisborne region.

Ever since the last bank closed in Ruatoria times have been tough, but now some industrious locals are starting to put the town back on the map again by generating their own wealth.

Panapa Ehau of Hikurangi Enterprises has begun growing marijuana, which he has done extensive research on so it can be turned into medical goods.

"Instead of sending primary product, we're processing and sending away something that's of really high value, there's exciting stuff that we're just on the verge of," Mr Ehau said.

Another enterprising local has been buying Mr Ehau's product and using it to make hemp products.

"We've been making hemp drops for animals for anti-anxiety," Phillipa Bowden told TVNZ's Seven Sharp.

Ms Bowden says you can use the products on dogs and horses, while she also makes hemp body butters mixed with manuka honey that is good for human skin.

With another local seeing some town rejuvenation after she started a cafe on Ruatoria's main street, locals are hopeful the small town will see a return to its glory days and be an example for other struggling Kiwi towns in the future.

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