Community celebration

About 70 people celebrated Christmas together at a growing Rural Resilience Group in Romahapa last year.

On Saturday December 17, a bagpiper led Father Christmas into Ralph Cochrane’s wool shed for an end-of-year barbecue and dessert.

‘‘We had a big bonfire and fireworks for Guy Fawkes, but the Christmas party’s been the biggest gathering yet,’’ Mr Cochrane said.

‘‘We’re a safe space where people can relax and share food, views, skills and conversation.’’

He said the informal group began with local people supporting each other through Covid-19 and mounting farming reforms, and meets at his School Rd wool shed every Saturday evening from six o’clock.

Besides food, drink and discussion, the Rural Resilience Group aims to promote solidarity though networking and skill sharing, including wool craft, gardening, effective communication and musical instruments.

The family-friendly group has also started to include Saturday night nature-walks to view the Catlins’ long-tailed bats and glow worms at Matai Falls.

Mr Cochrane said he expected numbers at the Rural Resilience Group to rise as pressures related to the rural sector and general cost of living continued into the new year.

‘‘Everybody’s welcome and everybody contributes. Life’s easier and more fun when you pool friendship and resources. It’s about fostering strength, especially for tougher times.’’