Methven, New Zealand

Methven (Māori: Piwakawaka[2]) is a small town in the Canterbury region of the South Island of New Zealand. Methven was named by an early colonial pioneer, a Mr. R. Patton, who named it for his home in Scotland.[3] It is located near the western edge of the Canterbury Plains, 35 kilometres north of Ashburton and 95 kilometres west of Christchurch. The town slogan is "Amazing Space".[4]


Piwakawaka (Māori)
Methven town centre
Coordinates: 43°38′S 171°39′E
CountryNew Zealand
Territorial authorityAshburton District
 (June 2020)[1]
Area code03
Methven Town Centre (October 2020)


Methven was originally the railhead of a short branch railway off the Main South Line. Branching off from Rakaia, the Methven Branch travelled through Lauriston and Lyndhurst to Methven and operated from 1880 until 1976. With the railway coming all the way into Methven, this led to more shopping opportunities in Methven without the need for a trip to Ashburton. The Mount Hutt Road Board office was completed in 1879.  Despite the depression of the 1880s and 1890s, the Methven library was built in 1880s, Methven School was opened in 1882 with 41 pupils, the Anglican church was built in 1880 and the Catholic church in 1888. The population of Methven town was 300 people in 1902. Methven contributed troops to the First World War with 69 of them losing their lives. In the 1920s Methven slowly changed from having livery stables and smithies to garages and engineering firms to service cars and farm machinery. The 1920s also saw the arrival in Methven companies such as Dalgety's and Wright Stevenson and Co. Trucking firms also aimed to compete with the railways to ship farm goods such as wool to the ports. Electricity also arrived around this time. The farm labourers who working on the local farms often resided in Methven or came to Methven to socialize after work. Farm labourers frequented the grocery stores, clothing retailer, pubs, billiard halls, brothels, and boarding houses that were present in Methven in the early days of the town. For the first 100 years of Methven's existence, its primary role was that of servicing the needs of farmers and farm labour.[5]


The population was 1707 in the 2013 census, an increase of 309 from 2006.[6] The population increased by 72 people to 1779 people (906 males, 873 females) in the 2018 Census. 91.6% of the population identify as European and 8.4% identify as Maori. There are a total of 849 private dwellings in Methven in 2018.[7] Almost 50% of Methven residents are married and a further 33.7% have never married nor been in a civil union. The median age of Methven residents in 2018 was 39.9 years old. The majority of residents were born in New Zealand (78.3%) with a minority (21.7%) born overseas.[8]


The warmest months of the year are January and February, with an average high temperature of 22 °C. The coldest month of the year occurs in July, when the average high temperature is 9 °C (48 °F). Monthly rainfall ranges between an average of 76 mm (3.0 in) in April to 103 mm (4.1 in) in July.[9] Snow falls a few days each year in Methven in the winter months of June, July and August.[9]

Statue commemorating the centennial of Methven and Districts (1879-1979)


Methven is a rural service town that supports the local region. Dairy farming, sharecropping, sheep farming and seed production and distribution are major players in the farming industry around Methven.[10][11][12] The Rangitata Diversion Race was New Zealand's first major river diversion. Construction began in 1937, paused for World War 2 and was completed in 1945. it is 67 kilometers long and provides irrigation to around 64,000 ha (160,000 acres) of farmland around Methven and mid Canterbury. The Mount Hutt Memorial Hall (160 Main Street, Methven) contains the New Zealand Alpine & Agriculture Encounter. It aims to provide an understanding of farming in the area.[13]

Methven has an annual A & P Show each year at the A & P Show grounds in Methven. The 2020 A & P show was cancelled due to the Covid-19 Lockdown in New Zealand.[14]

Ski Town

The Methven Lions Club studied whether Mt. Hutt could be developed into a ski field in 1971. The study suggested that this was possible and it led to the opening of Mt. Hutt in 1973. Although the majority of skiers usually made the journey to Mt. Hutt from Christchurch on a daily basis, some would stay the weekend in Methven and need accommodation, dinner and services. This led to the establishment of a number of hotels, motels, restaurants and other tourist activities being developed. The town center was redeveloped with 14 new shops built in 1975. Development continued and by 1989 Methven had five hotels, three motels, twenty ski lodges, two camping grounds and nine restaurants.[5]

This diversification of the economy means that during winter Methven undergoes a stark transformation. Mount Hutt skifield is around half an hour away from Methven. As such, a number of cafes, bars, and restaurants lie relatively dormant over the summer months. Similarly, the town's accommodation providers have a strongly seasonal trade. The New Zealand Ski Heritage Museum was established in 2000. It is located in the Mount Hutt Memorial Hall (160 Main Street, Methven). It includes ski fashions, antique ski equipment and Winter Olympic memorabilia.[15] Methven is also a base for heliskiing in the Arrowsmith range of mountains.[16][17] The annual Peak to Pub race starts at the top of Mt Hutt where competitors ski two kilometres ski down the mountain to the car park. This is followed by an a18-km mountain bike ride down the ski road, followed by a 12-km run into Methven.[18]

Methven tourism businesses have struggled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 virus. The Methven Resort Hotel, was placed into liquidation in June 2020. The hotel had a 100-seat restaurant, a large swimming pool and multiple spa pools.[19]

Notable buildings

The Brown Pub

Brown Pub, Methven, Mt Hutt in the background (October 2020)

The Brown Pub was built in 1883. It was destroyed fire over on 19 June 1922. It was subsequently rebuilt. It suffered damage in the Canterbury earthquake of 2010 and the Canterbury Earthquake of 2011 and was damaged by fire in 2019.[20][21]

The Blue Pub

Blue Pub, Methven,  (October 2020)

The Blue Pub was damaged by fire in 1918 and also suffered damage in the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-11.[22]

Methven War Memorial

Methven War Memorial

The War Memorial was unveiled in February 1930.[23] It commemorates the 69 men lost in the First World War and the 15 men lost in the Second World War.[24]

Methven Historical Society Building

This was built in 1917 at 7 Bank Street. It was damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and was a category 2 historic place. It was demolished in 2013.[25]

Methven Public Library

Built between 1883 and 1884 at 60 Main Street, in an Italianate style. It was damaged in the Canterbury earthquakes and was a category 2 historic place. It was demolished in 2013.[25]

Mount Hutt Road Board Building

Mount Hutt Road Board Building (October 2020)

The Road Board Building was built in 1879 on Methven's Main Street. It currently serves as the Methven Toy Library.[26]

All Saints Anglican Church

All Saints Church, Methven (October 2020)

The Anglican Church (1 Chapman Street) was built in 1880.[5]

Methven Post Office

The Methven Post Office (October 2020)

The Methven Post Office reopened as an Irish bar and restaurant in 2015. The original bank safe and other historical items still remain in the building.[27]

Other activities

In addition to skiing, horse riding is popular and there are a number of companies that offer horse treks in and around Methven. Hot air ballooning is also possible to do in Methven.[28] The Methven i-SITE Visitor Centre is located at 160 Main Street, Methven. The Methven skatepark was opened in 2020. It sits in the centre of town in the reserve at Bank and McMillan Streets. Significant local fundraising efforts were required to make the skatepark a reality.[29][30][31]


Tramping in the hills and mountains surrounding Methven is a popular pastime.[32] Local walks include:

Rakaia Gorge Walkway

The start of the Rakaia Gorge Walkway is an 11-kilometer drive from Methven. The track is 10.4 kilometers there and back which will take the average walker three to four hours to complete the return journey.[33]

Mount Hutt Forest

Short walks in the Mount Hutt Forest (which is 12.5 kilometers from Methven) include the Rhododendron Walk; Te Awa Awa Walk; Alder Track; Opuke Track and the Ridge Track. A longer walk is the Pudding Hill Stream (8.25 kilometers, 3 hours one way) and the Scotts Saddle Track (4.5 kilometers, 2 hours one way)[33]

Mt Alford Conservation Area

The Mt Alford car park is a 12.5-kilometer drive from Methven. The Mt Alford Track itself is a 4.6-kilometer-long track that climbs to the summit of Mt Alford (1,171 m). It takes approximately three hours one way. The tracks are closed each year in September and October during lambing season.[33]

Mt Somers Walk

Slightly further away, Mt Somers can be done as a day trip or a two or three day trip with nights in backcountry huts along the way.[34]

The Methven Walkway

The Methven Walkway is eleven kilometers long and a gentle walk on the flat. Most of the walk is along the Rangitata Diversion Canal.[35]

Mountain Thunder motorcycle street-races

The Mountain Thunder motorcycle street race was an annual event held in Methven for eight years until 2017.[36] It was held on Easter Saturday. Motorcyclists raced on a tight one-kilometre road circuit. Speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour were reached. Competitors come from across New Zealand to compete at this event.[37] The 2017 event was marred by a fatality in one of the races.[37]

Methven Rodeo

The Methven Rodeo is held annually in October each year and attendances can exceed 6000 people.[38] Events include Barrel Racing, Bull Riding, Saddle Bronc, Steer Wrestling and Team Roping.[39][40]

Opuke Hot Pools

The New Zealand Government's provincial growth fund provided a $7.5 million government loan to help fund a new hot pools spa complex which will be built next to the Methven Trotting Club. It will have both family bathing and an adult-exclusive area. The water will be heated by solar power.[41][42] The hot pools are due to open in July 2021.[43]

Mountain Biking

Bike Methven has developed a range of mountain bike trails around Methven which cover cross-country, enduro, and downhill trails. The Mount Hutt Bike Park is home to 30 kilometres of trails that are within five minutes of Methven.[44][45]

In popular culture

Methven also served as a base to cast and crew for the filming of Edoras (located further inland at Mt Sunday[32]), for The Lord of the Rings.[46][10]

The cast and crew of the movie Z for Zachariah stayed in Methven in February and March 2014 while shooting scenes at Washpen Falls near Windwhistle. After a party at the Blue Pub in Methven, Hollywood actor Chris Pine was caught drink-driving by police.[47][48]

During the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown in New Zealand, Lynda from the Topp Twins and her wife Donna played music from the back of their truck on the way to the supermarket to bring some fun into peoples lives in Methven.[49]


A variety of sporting and other clubs and organisations have existed in Methven. These include:[5]

Sports clubs

  • Methven Rugby Football Club (established 1896)
  • Methven Lawn Tennis Association (established 1896)
  • Methven Outdoor Bowling Club (established 1918)
  • Methven Cricket Club (established 1920)
  • Methven Ladies Hockey Club (established 1920)
  • Methven Golf Club (established 1924)
  • Methven Gun Club (established 1927)
  • Methven Trotting Club (established 1927)
  • Methven Miniature Rifle Club (established 1927)
  • Methven Amateur Swimming Club (established 1934)
  • Methven Caledonian Society Netball Club (established 1936)
  • Methven Croquet Club (established 1939)

Other organisations

  • The Methven Masonic Lodge. established 1883. (October 2020)
    The Methven Lodge (established 1883)
  • The Loyal Methven Lodge (established 1900)
  • Methven Agricultural and Pastoral Association (established 1911)
  • Methven Collie Club (established 1911)
  • Methven Plunket Society (established 1922)
  • Methven Volunteer Fire Brigade (established 1928)
  • Methven Country Women's Institute (established 1931)
  • Methven Young Farmers Club (established 1935)
  • Methven Women's Division Federated Farmers (established 1936)
  • Methven Choral Society (established 1941)
  • Methven Federated Farmers (established 1945)

Police dog

Methven was home to Rajah, New Zealand's first police dog.[50] A bronze statue of Rajah sits outside the Mt Hutt Function Centre. It was unveiled on 8 February 2015.[51]


Methven has three schools.

  • Methven Primary School is a state contributing primary (years 1 to 6) school. It has 258 students as of March 2021.[52] There are 25 staff members who work at the school.[53]
  • Mount Hutt College is a state Year 7 to 13 secondary school. It has 496 students as of March 2021.[52]
  • Our Lady of Snow School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary (years 1 to 8) school. It has 34 students as of March 2021.[52]


Methven is part of the Rangitata electorate.[54] The Ashburton District Council is responsible for providing local government services to Methven.[55]

Notable people

  • Sir Graeme Harrison (born 1948), business executive born in Methven and has retired to his birth town
  • John Kennedy (1926–1994), journalist born in Methven
  • Kathy Lynch (born 1957), competitive cyclist who has retired to Methven[56]
  • Dame Lynda Topp of the Topp Twins lives in Methven.[57]


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