A music festival — held off the beaten track — has proved a success, connecting people along the Taieri River catchment area.

The inaugural Taiari Wai River Festival, organised by Tiaki Maniototo, was held at the group’s base in Patearoa on Saturday.

More than 350 people attended the free festival, exceeding organisers’ expectations.

Tiaki Maniototo communications officer Bill Morris said the festival aimed to to celebrate freshwater conservation, biodiversity and to “celebrate some great music”.

“What we’re all about is engaging the community of the whole Taieri River,” Mr Morris said.

While it had been a gamble holding the event in Patearoa, it had proved a success.

“It was too good of an opportunity to pass up — to have a festival here,” he said.

He said Tiaki Maniototo was hoping to make next year’s event bigger and better.

“There’s a lot of people that relate to [the Taieri River] and I’d like one day for them all to come to this festival and be part of it.”

Young conservationists . . . Examining invertebrate and plant specimen at the Taiari Wai River Festival are (from left) Koru Dickson, 10, Charlie Anderson, 8, and Daisy Dickson, 8, all of Dunedin. PHOTO: RUBY SHAW

As well as live music, there were talks on Central Otago’s pre-historic forests and native reptiles.

Local invertebrates and plant specimens were on display for microscopic viewing; a great chance for children to learn about freshwater ecology, Mr Morris said.

Project executive Janine Smith said community engagement events such as the festival would built a future of freshwater conservation.

“People will talk about it and it will grow — but you’ve got to start somewhere.”

Community engagement was piqued by the sale of native plants from Tiaki Maniototo’s nursery.

Over 350 plants were sold on Saturday, well more than expected, Ms Smith said.