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St. Marks Anglican Church, Rai Valley
St. Marks Anglican Church, Rai Valley

Rai Valley is the westernmost settlement in the Marlborough District.

Due to its remote location and modest population, Rai Valley has an area school which combines primary and secondary functions in the one institution catering for years 1-13 students from the surrounding area.

Rai Valley provides a service centre for agriculture and forestry in the area, also for mussel farming in the outer Marlborough Sounds. Formerly, Pacifica Seafoods operated a mussel processing factory in the settlement, however this was destroyed by fire in April 1999, and was not rebuilt, resulting in the loss of nearly 200 jobs.

Rai Valley is a gateway to some of the remotest westernmost parts of the Marlborough Sounds accessible by road, with the road to French Pass and Tennyson Inlet beginning off State Highway 6 just past the settlement.

The Rai Valley A&P Show is held every year on the first Saturday in March at the Carluke Domain since 1934.

St. Marks Anglican Church comes under the jurisdiction of Sounds Anglican based in Havelock, with services held twice a month.

There are several parks and reserves in the area including Alfred Stream Reserve, Brown River Reserve, and Ronga Reserve.

A partnership between DOC, Forest and Bird and volunteers from the public is working to restore a 17 hectare area of native podocarp forest, Ronga Reserve, through weed clearing and tree planting.

History

In 1881, Charles and Mathilda Turner were the first settlers to the isloated and densely forested Rai Valley, and constructed a totara slab cottage where they lived for over ten years in isolation before other settlers arrived. The cottage that still stands today, restored and preserved as a class one historic building.

The dense forests of the area attracted sawmillers, who cleared most of the land between the late 19th Century and early 20th Century. Brownlee's was one of the largest operators. The cleared land was converted to pasture, and dairy production became an important component of the local economy. A dairy factory operated in the valley from 1909 to 1980 to process locally produced milk.

Population

Census data specific to Rai Valley is not available, as it is included in the 'Marlborough Sounds Terrestrial' area which includes most of the Marlborough Sounds with the exception of Havelock and Picton, and while smaller census data blocks exist, they have their boundaries in, or very close to the Rai Valley settlement, however combining data from several neighbouring blocks, gives a population of around 200 for Rai Valley and its immediate surrounding area.

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