Ashburton, New Zealand

Ashburton (Māori: Hakatere) is a large town in the Canterbury Region, on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The town is the seat of the Ashburton District. It is 85 kilometres (53 mi) south west of Christchurch and is sometimes regarded as a satellite town of Christchurch.[3]


Hakatere (Māori)
Aerial view of Ashburton, looking west. The Ashburton River/Hakatere is visible at left.
Coordinates: 43°54′20″S 171°44′44″E
Country New Zealand
DistrictAshburton District Council
NZ ParliamentRangitata
Te Tai Tonga (Māori)
  MayorNeil Brown
  Deputy MayorLiz McMillan
  Territorial6,187.40 km2 (2,388.97 sq mi)
 (June 2020)[2]
  Density5.7/km2 (15/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)03
Local iwiNgāi Tahu
WebsiteAshburton District Council

Ashburton township has a population of 20,200.[2] The town is the 29th-largest urban area in New Zealand and the fourth-largest urban area in the Canterbury Region, after Christchurch, Timaru and Rolleston. "Ashvegas", Ashburton's common nickname, is an ironic allusion to Las Vegas.[4]


Ashburton was named by the surveyor Captain Joseph Thomas of the New Zealand Land Association, after Francis Baring, 3rd Baron Ashburton, who was a member of the Canterbury Association.

In 1858 William Turton, ran a ferry across the Ashburton river close to where the Ashburton bridge now lies. He also built an accommodation house. By 1864 the horse drawn coaches of the Cobb and Co. business travelled through Ashburton between Christchurch and Timaru. This continued until the railway line was built.[5]

The town was surveyed by Robert Park in 1864.[5] It is laid out around two central squares either side of the railway line and main highway, Baring Square East and Baring Square West.

The Presbyterian church was completed in 1876, The Weslayan Church in 1878 and the Catholic church in 1882.[6]

Ashburton was designated as a borough in 1878. At this stage, there were about 500 buildings within the borough.[6] Netherby was added in 1917, Hampstead in 1921, and Allenton in 1939 to the borough of Ashburton. In 1955, Tinwald was added to the borough.[5]


Ashburton is located 86 kilometres (53 mi) south of Christchurch. The town is the centre of an agricultural and pastoral farming district, part of the Canterbury Plains. It has one large suburb, Tinwald, south of the town and the Ashburton River. The town has three other suburbs: Allenton, Hampstead and Netherby.[7]


Railway stations

The Main South Line railway line runs through the centre of town.[7] The station opened on 24 August 1874[8] and the refreshment room was converted from table- to counter-service to save staff and speed service in 1944.[9] The rooms closed in 1970, when the Southerner train started. That train ceased on 10 February 2002, but some barley continues to be sent by train to maltings at Marton.[10][11] A container terminal is open on weekdays.[12] The station was demolished in 2013 after several resource consent hearings.[10]

Tinwald was the junction for the now-closed Mount Somers Branch railway line. Tinwald opened as Ashburton South on 31 May 1875. It was renamed from 18 March 1878 and closed before 1993 to passengers and on 11 October 1981 to all but private siding traffic.[8] Part of the branch still operates as the Plains Vintage Railway.[13]


State Highway 1 runs through the centre of Ashburton crossing the Ashburton river and is the main road connection between Christchurch and Dunedin. The Ashburton road bridge was damaged by extensive flooding at the end of May 2021. This resulted in the northern end of the bridge slumping 13cm.[14][15]

The 90 year old bridge is the only route across the Ashburton river for local traffic and State Highway 1 traffic. The Ashburton District Council has been trying to obtain funding from Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) for a second bridge to divert local traffic on to and provide more resilience to the road network. In 2021, the additional bridge was planned to be built in 15 years time.[16][17]

State Highway 77 starts in Ashburton and heads towards Methven, through the Rakaia gorge and on to Darfield.


The Ashburton Airport is located near the town centre and is an active light (GA and Microlight) aviation hub and home of the Mid Canterbury Aero Club (GA) and Ashburton Aviation Pioneers.


On the whole, Ashburton shares a similar climate to Christchurch i.e. a dry temperate climate (Cfb). However, since it lies further inland at a higher altitude to Christchurch, Ashburton experiences a greater range of temperatures. During summer Ashburton can exceed 30 °C (86 °F), whilst winter can see regular frosts and annual snowfall. Ashburton's heaviest snowfall was 38 centimetres (15 in) on 12 June 2006,[18] conversely it is tied with Timaru for New Zealand's fourth-highest temperature on record, reaching 41.3 °C (106.3 °F) on 7 February 1973.[19]

Climate data for Ashburton
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 23.7
Average low °C (°F) 11.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 58.5
Source: NIWA Science climate data[20]


The Ashburton urban area had a usual resident population of 19,284 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 1,395 people (7.8%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 3,093 people (19.1%) since the 2006 census.[21]

The population of Ashburton was recorded as 2,322 in the 1901 census,[6] 8,287 in the 1951 census, 10,176 in the 1956 census and 11,604 in the 1961 census.[5]

In 2018, there were 9,537 males and 9,750 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.98 males per female. Of the total population, 3,639 people (18.9%) were aged up to 15 years, 3,330 (17.3%) were 15 to 29, 7,974 (41.4%) were 30 to 64, and 4,341 (22.5%) were 65 or older.[22]

In terms of ethnicity, 82.9% were European/Pākehā, 9.1% were Māori, 7.7% were Pacific peoples, 5.8% were Asian, and 1.7% were other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).[22]

Individual statistical areas in Rolleston (2018 census)[21]
SA2 name Population Dwellings Median age Median income
Allenton East 2,121 903 45.3 years $33,100
Allenton North 2,547 1,092 47.7 years $34,900
Allenton South 2,121 873 36.0 years $33,700
Ashburton Central 141 72 53.6 years $31,100
Ashburton East 1,749 822 45.7 years $25,700
Ashburton North 1,050 411 48.3 years $36,400
Ashburton West 957 480 57.8 years $27,200
Hampstead 2,910 1,224 35.7 years $30,100
Netherby 2,130 846 36.0 years $33,100
Tinwald North 1,185 513 43.5 years $34,800
Tinwald South 2,373 945 40.4 years $31,900


Ashburton's train station before it was demolished in 2013[10]


Ashburton lies in the middle of the fertile alluvial Canterbury Plains which permits agricultural activity such as dairying provided irrigation is used.

The Ashburton District Council has a 40% holding in the company that manages the Rangitata Diversion Race.[23] This scheme diverts water from the Rangitata and South Ashburton rivers into a canal that provides irrigation to large parts of the district.

Cooperative companies

In 2012, Ashburton was noted for having more cooperative companies operating in its district than in any other area of New Zealand, and was subsequently named by the New Zealand Cooperatives Association the "Cooperative Capital of New Zealand". Several of the 40-plus companies are national companies based outside the district, such as Fonterra, Foodstuffs and Silver Fern Farms (meat processing), but many were local cooperatives, such as the Ashburton Trading Society (farm supplies) and Electricity Ashburton (electricity distribution).[24]


Ashburton media includes the Ashburton Guardian daily newspaper, the Mid Canterbury Herald, a free weekly community newspaper owned by Fairfax Media which comes out every Wednesday, The Courier, another free weekly community newspaper owned by the Otago Daily Times, and the Mid Canterbury-focused AshburtonOnline website. Radio Port FM is based in Timaru; Newstalk ZB and Classic Hits ZEFM are re-broadcast from other out-of-town stations.

Ashburton Hospital

Ashburton Hospital is a 74 bed hospital based at 28 Elizabeth Street, Ashburton. The hospital provides medical, surgical, radiology and maternity care. It admits about 5,000 inpatients each year as well as seeing 2,600 day patients and 15,000 outpatients. It is run by Canterbury District Health Board and the rural health service employed approximately 550 staff in 2021.[25]


Ashburton Domain
Aerial view of Ashburton, with the Southern Alps in the background

Museum and Art Gallery

The Ashburton Museum and Art Gallery share one building, which sits on State Highway 1, just outside the centre of town. As well as temporary exhibitions, the museum has a permanent exhibition tracing the history of the Ashburton district.[26]

Ashburton Aviation Museum

The Ashburton Aviation Museum is located at the Ashburton Airport. The museum has two buildings which display over twenty-five aircraft. These include a Skyhawk formerly used by the New Zealand Air Force, A Vampire FB5 and a Canberra B2 Bomber.[27] The collection also includes the only British Aerospace HS Harrier "Jump-jet" GR3 in the southern hemisphere.[28]


The Ashburton Club and Mutual School of Arts (MSA) was founded in 1885. The MSA is a member of the NZ Chartered Clubs Association and is located in the central town. The club itself currently has around 4,000 members on its records.[29]

Ashburton Racecourse

The Ashburton Raceway is a horse racing venue that includes both a 1500 metre long trotting track and an 1800 metre long galloping track. There is also a Harness Racing Museum located at the racecourse.[30] The racecourse is located off State Highway 1 at the northern end of Ashburton.

Ashburton Speedway

The Ashburton Speedway provides a race track for a number of categories of cars including stockcars, production saloon cars and street stocks. They also run a demolition derby once a year. The Ashburton Speedway is located next to Ashburton Airport on Seafield road.[31]

Rivers and lakes

In part to rectify the limitations imposed by the lack of recreational waterways, Lake Hood was constructed just south-east of Tinwald. The Ashburton lakes Lake Heron, Lake Camp and Lake Clearwater are inland. On the road to these lakes are Mount Somers and the Mount Somers walkway.


Mount Hutt is the nearest ski field, located inland just past Methven.


Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) in Ashburton, Royal Tour (1920)

There are seven primary schools, an intermediate school, a secondary school and a composite school in Ashburton. All rolls are as of March 2021.[32]

  • Allenton School is a state contributing primary (Year 1–6) school. It has a roll of 385 students.
  • Ashburton Borough School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school. It has a roll of 328 students.
  • Ashburton Christian School is a state-integrated evangelical Christian composite (Year 1–13) school. The school opened in February 2009 as a private school, and integrated into the state system in March 2011. It has a roll of 167 students.
  • Ashburton College is a state secondary (Year 9–13) school. The school opened in 1965 following the merger of Ashburton High School and Hakatere College. It has a roll of 1245 students.
  • Ashburton Intermediate School is a state intermediate (Year 7–8) school. The school opened in 1974. It has a roll of 418 students.
  • Ashburton Netherby School is a state contributing primary school. The school opened in 1959. It has a roll of 151 students.
  • Fairton School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 19 students.
  • Hampstead School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 339 students.
  • St Joseph's School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary school. It has a roll of 240 students.
  • Tinwald School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 217 students.
  • Wakanui School is a state full primary school. It has a roll of 108 students.

Prominent residents

Prominent residents have included the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jenny Shipley, international operatic tenor Simon O'Neill, Olympic silver medal cyclist Hayden Roulston and New Zealand television and radio personalities Simon Barnett and Robyn Malcolm.

Rugby union player Chris King was born in Ashburton.

Hugo Friedlander was the second Mayor of Ashburton (1879–1881, 1890–1892 and 1898–1901), but left for Auckland in 1918 due to anti-German feelings caused by WWI.[33]

John Grigg was a local landowner and Member of Parliament in the mid 19th century.

Dorothy Eden, a prolific novelist, grew up in Ashburton.


  1. "Council Members". Ashburton District Council. Retrieved 28 April 2020.
  2. "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  3. O'Neill, Peter (15 June 2011). "Editorial comment". Ashburton Guardian. Archived from the original on 3 April 2012. We are close enough to be considered a satellite town.
  4. Peters, Pam; Collins, Peter; Smith, Adam (2009). Comparative Studies in Australian and New Zealand English: Grammar and Beyond. John Benjamins. p. 57.
  5. McLintock, Alexander Hare; Brian Newton Davis, M. A.; Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "ASHBURTON". An encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock, 1966. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  6. "[Ashburton] | NZETC". Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  7. "ASHBURTON, Canterbury". NZ Topo Map. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  8. Scoble, Juliet (2010). "Names & Opening & Closing Dates of Railway Stations" (PDF). Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 January 2018. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  9. "REFRESHMENT ROOMS. ASHBURTON GUARDIAN". 8 November 1944. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  10. "Rail Heritage Trust of New Zealand – Ashburton Station and Footbridge". Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  11. "Malteurop NZ and Coastal Bulk Shipping sign contract for transporting barley between Whanganui and Timaru ports". NZ Herald. Retrieved 23 January 2021.
  12. "Ashburton". KiwiRail. Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  13. "The Plains Museum". Retrieved 28 February 2021.
  14. "Flood-damaged Ashburton bridge to close for two hours for testing". Stuff. 8 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  15. "Restrictions lifted on trucks crossing Ashburton Bridge". Stuff. 9 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  16. "Ashburton mayor wants a much-needed bridge after Govt treats Auckland to brand-new one". Otago Daily Times Online News. 9 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  17. "Auckland's second bridge frustrating to residents of flood-ravaged Ashburton". Newshub. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  18. Hendrikx, Jordy. "Preliminary analysis of the 12 June 2006 Canterbury snow storm - NIWA" (PDF). NIWA. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  19. "New Zealand's 10 hottest temperatures ever recorded". Stuff. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  20. "Ashburton, New Zealand: Climate, Global Warming, and Daylight Charts and Data". Ashburton, New Zealand. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  21. "2018 Census place summaries | Stats NZ". Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  22. "Age and sex by ethnic group (grouped total response), for census usually resident population counts, 2006, 2013, and 2018 Censuses (urban rural areas)". Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  23. "Rangitata Diversion Race Management Limited (394028) Registered". New Zealand Companies Office. Archived from the original on 24 May 2020.
  24. "Ashburton Crowned 'Cooperative Capital of NZ'". New Zealand Cooperatives Association (via 15 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  25. "Ashburton Hospital". Canterbury DHB. 31 May 2021. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  26. Amber. "From Taonga to Today". Ashburton Museum. Retrieved 13 June 2021.
  27. "Ashburton, Mid Canterbury has a strong aviation history, being a training base in World War 2. There were 50 Tiger Moths based there. The Ashburton Aviation Museum is well worth a visit". Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  28. "Ski, soak and more: why mid-Canterbury should be your next winter holiday break". Stuff. 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  29. Ashburton Club and M.S.A. ; A century of achievement, 1885–1985. Pg.7
  30. "ABOUT". Ashburton Raceway. Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  31. "Ashburton Speedway Location". Retrieved 16 June 2021.
  32. "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  33. McCausland, Ray. "Hugo Friedlander". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 1 December 2011.


  • Reed, A. W. (2002). The Reed Dictionary of New Zealand Place Names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0761-4.