Fairlie, New Zealand

Fairlie is a Mackenzie District service town located in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand. As of the 2018 census, the population was 885.[1] Being on state highway 8 between Christchurch (182 km, 2 hours 20 minutes drive) and Queenstown (300 km 3.5 hours drive), tourism is fast becoming a major industry within the town. Kimbell is 8 km west of Fairlie via state highway 8. Geraldine is 45 km east via state highway 79 and Timaru is 58 km southeast of Fairlie via state highway 8.

A statue of James Mckenzie and his dog, in the centre of the town
Coordinates: 44°06′S 170°50′E
CountryNew Zealand
Territorial authorityMackenzie District
 (2018 Census)[1]
Time zoneUTC+12 (New Zealand Standard Time)
  Summer (DST)UTC+13 (New Zealand Daylight Time)
Area code(s)03
Local iwiNgāi Tahu

From 1884 to 1968, the town was served by the Fairlie Branch railway,[2][3] though until 1934, this branch line actually terminated a kilometre beyond Fairlie in Eversley.

Fairlie is commonly known as the gateway to the Mackenzie Basin.[4] [5] The town was initially called Fairlie's Creek, a name purportedly chosen by David Hamilton, the brother-in-law of James Lister (or Lizter), who had built a boarding house near the creek. The name Hamilton had been suggested, but was rejected due to similarity to Hamilton, New Zealand. David Hamilton suggested the town be named Fairlie after Fairlie, Scotland, which he had visited as part of his honeymoon.[6] The Opihi River runs past Fairlie.

Fairlie hosts the annual Mackenzie District Agricultural and Pastoral show every Easter Monday. The 105th annual show was in 2006. The Fairlie Heritage Museum has one of the biggest vintage wagon and carriage collections in the country.[5]

A large cat, "the size of a panther" has been spotted close in Fairlie in 2013.[7][8] Fairlie is known for its pies produced at the Fairlie Bakehouse.[9]

The Mackenzie Half-Marathon which first ran in July 2020 starts in Fairlie. 355 runners competed. It is next expected to run in Easter 2021.[10] A $100,000 skateboard park is proposed to be built in Fairlie.[11]


Fairlie has cool winters with an average high temperature of 9 degrees Celsius and an average low temperature of 2 degrees Celsius in July. Summers are warm with an average high temperature of 22 degrees Celsius and an average low temperature of 11 degrees Celsius in February. The wettest month of the year is December with an average of 66mm of rain and the driest is September with 50mm rain on average.[12]


Fairlie had a population of 867 residents in 2006, 861 residents in 2013 and growing to 885 residents in 2018.  The median age of the residents in 2018 was 47.3 years old. In terms of ethnicity, 89.5% of residents identified as European, 7.8% identified as Maori and 8.8% identified as of Maori descent. The majority of residents were born in New Zealand (78.7%). Many residents identified with no religion (45.4%) while a sizeable minority (44.4%) identified as Christian. Only 46.8% of residents were in full time employment. The median income was $25,700 with 10.5% earning over $70,000.[13]

In 2018, there were 384 occupied private dwellings and a further 93 unoccupied private dwellings.[13]


Fairlie has three schools.

  • Fairlie School is a state contributing primary (Year 1 to 6) school.[14] It has 116 students as of March 2021.[15]
  • Mackenzie College is a state Year 7 to 13 secondary school.[16] It has 190 students as of March 2021.[15]
  • Saint Joseph's School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary (Year 1 to 8) school.[17] It has 22 students as of March 2021.[15]

Ski Fields

Fairlie is near the Two Thumb mountain range. There are two ski fields close located by. Mount Dobson Ski Field is 28 km drive from Fairlie as is Fox Peak Ski Field.


  1. "2018 Census place summaries Stats | NZ".
  2. "Opening of the Railway to Fairlie Creek", Timaru Herald (31 January 1884): 3.
  3. "Branch line closures a sign of the times but infuriating for locals". Kiwirail. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  4. "Fairlie". Discover New Zealand: A Wises Guide (9th ed.). 1994. p. 376.
  5. "Things to see and do in Fairlie, New Zealand". www.newzealand.com. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  6. "Fairlie". New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 25 May 2016.
  7. "Shock as driver sees 'panther' near Fairlie". Stuff. 20 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  8. "new-south-island-big-cat-sightings-the-latest-in-a-50year-mystery". Stuff. 13 September 2020.
  9. "Fairlie Bakehouse as easy as pie for Franz Lieber". Stuff. 12 May 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  10. "Inaugural half-marathon through Fairlie basin a success". Stuff. 19 July 2020. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  11. "Fairlie skatepark is about to happen". Stuff. 18 September 2020. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  12. "Climate Fairlie". meteoblue. Retrieved 18 September 2020.
  13. "2018 Census place summaries | Stats NZ". www.stats.govt.nz. Retrieved 16 October 2020.
  14. Education Counts: Fairlie School
  15. "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  16. Education Counts: Mackenzie College
  17. Education Counts: Saint Joseph's School