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Elma Hobson, Dorothy Knight, Jaron Matthews and George Hobson.

Hard-working Rakaia locals have “turned $1 into $3” and cleared wrist-thick broom and gorse to create a garden that may win a national award.

Under the name of the Rakaia Community Association, Rakaia’s village green project is one of five finalists in the NZ Gardener of the Year competition.

Voting is through the magazine’s website.

The chairman of the Rakaia Community Association, Neil Pluck, said the section of the Rakaia Walkway entered was covered in blackberry and broom, which grew wild when pines were cleared out of the area years ago.

“We talked to the (Ashburton) council and ECan about it, and they said clear it. We spent $16,000 clearing it. It was all gorse and broom with stems two inches thick.

“We groomed and sprayed 2ha, with local support. In Rakaia, we turn $1 into $3, and planted it out in natives, most supplied by locals.”

The cleared area will link the new walkway with a longer walkway along the Rakaia River.

Mr Pluck said that about eight years ago the association created a 3.5km walkway, and that had been added to over the years.

He said this section was challenging – but had been mastered.

The rule for the walkway was that it had to be suitable for people with prams and about two metres wide.

He said the goal would be to extend the walkway as far as Barrhill.

Mr Pluck said there were bits and pieces of walkway around the district, including the trail to Hakatere, and what was needed was a group, perhaps with a part-time person, to work on linking them.

The walkway, along the edge of the Rakaia River, is popular with the community, but it wasn’t circular – to get from one part to the next, you walked along a road.

So in 2016 the group paid contractors to clear and level the area, then volunteers created the trail and planted natives along it – pittosporum, kowhai, flaxes, hebes and other plants locals found.

Nearly all the plants were donated.

One of the gardeners is Dorothy Knight, who helps keep the newly planted clear of weeds.

Also helping are George and Elma Hobson.

Mrs Hobson is 91.

George mows the area and Elma helps in the garden.

Others keep the walkways clear.

Jaron Matthews supplied nearly 100 of the natives, including matipo, lemonwood, kowhai.

George said an area sown with wildflowers, but fat-hen came up, but was mown into submission.

Some of the wildflowers have survived, too.

Another cleared area is also ready for planting.

Behind is a reminder of what has been achieved – dense thickets of broom and gorse.

The newly planted area and the area to be planted are near Rakaia’s recycling centre, near the Rakaia Primary School.

Other finalists in the competition are from Whangarei, Auckland, Rotorua and Christchurch.