Riversdale: town that bucks the trend

20:16, Jul 11 2012
Riversdale thriving
Money for Wine Recycled Boutique owners Robyn Hawker, left, and Emily Norton.
Riversdale thriving
Northern Southland Veterinary Services staff, from left, retail assistant Donna Hailes, practice manager Julia Grant, and administrator Elaine Tremaine.
Riversdale thriving
The Riversdale Hotel.
Riversdale thriving
Riversdale’s main drag, Newcastle St.
Riversdale thriving
Welcome to Riversdale.

The small rural town of Riversdale, 29km northwest of Gore, is thriving. Reporter Alana Dixon and photographer Nicole Gourley visited the locals.

Dairying, an ideal location and the local pub are being credited by locals as some of the reasons why Riversdale is thriving.

Recent additions to the town are a clothing store and beauty salon, while the local veterinarian clinic has shifted into a brand-new building and an accountancy firm and helicopter business have also opened offices on the main street.

Robyn Hawker, co-owner of the newly opened Money for Wine Recycled Boutique, says the businesses that have opened recently freshen up the look of the main street.

"I just think it's given the town a makeover ... it's given [it] a bit more of a lift."

Just a few paces from the boutique is Herd About Hair and Beauty, which has added a beauty salon to its existing hairdressing business.


Beautician Mikey Hull says the salon, which now offers treatments from facials to spray tans to massages, has received great feedback from Riversdale residents, while stylist Catherine Clement says having stores that catered to locals' needs reinforces Riversdale's strong community spirit.

"I guess it brings a community even closer, because everyone can just come into the town and do everything they need to do," she says.

Also part of the town's renaissance is its pub, locals say.

Owner Gary Kirk, who has lived his whole life in the town, alludes to the eight years, more than 300 litres of paint, and "a horrific amount of man-hours" that went into the Riversdale Hotel before the finishing touches restored it to its former glory.

Although many small-town Kiwi hotels have been forced to close their doors this year alone, he reckons it is Riversdale's attitude that is the main factor in its success.

New homes are being built on a regular basis and it is great to see businesses opening as well, he says.

"It just makes the country town alive. Most of them are dying, but Riversdale's alive."

The recently established playcentre is doing well, sports clubs including golf and bowls and the town's three churches are strong, and most nights cars can be seen parked outside the community centre, where people do everything from playing badminton and squash to attending RSA meetings.

The area's steady growth also means a veterinarian clinic has had to shift to a larger building, officially opened last week by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English.

Northern Southland Veterinary Services practice manager Julia Grant says increasing demand from farmers, mainly those in the dairy industry, means the company continues to swell.

The new clinic has two surgeries as well as more space for its 15 staff and the retail side of the business, she says.

Riversdale Community Board chairman Alex McLennan says the dairying has been a "tremendous lift" for the town, while Southland District Council member Brian Dillon, from the Riversdale ward, says he believes the town's location, only about 20 minutes from Gore, sets it in good stead.

"It's a good distance for people to go to work but still enjoy the country lifestyle ... [and] there's a whole changed atmosphere around now with the dairy farming. It brings a lot more people in to the town, kids to the school, and things like that," he says.

The Southland Times