Rolleston, New Zealand

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Rolleston is located in New Zealand
Coordinates: 43°35′S 172°23′E / 43.583°S 172.383°E / -43.583; 172.383
Country  New Zealand
Island South Island
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Selwyn District
Named for William Rolleston
 • Total 19.65 km2 (7.59 sq mi)
Population (June 2014 estimate)[1]
 • Total 10,600
 • Density 540/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu
Rolleston from the air

Rolleston /ˈrɒləˌstən/ is the seat and largest town in the Selwyn District, in the Canterbury Region of New Zealand's South Island. It is located on the Canterbury Plains 22 kilometres (14 mi) south-west of Christchurch, and is considered a satellite town of the city. The town has a population of 10,600 (June 2014 estimate),[1] making it New Zealand's 31st largest urban area.

Rolleston originated as a railway terminus in 1866, and is named after the Canterbury statesman William Rolleston. Rolleston, who was born in Yorkshire in 1831 and died in 1903, served as Superintendent of the Province of Canterbury from 1868 until 1876 (when central government abolished the New Zealand provinces). He also served as a Member of Parliament, holding various Cabinet portfolios.

Until 1990 the town had only a few sealed streets and a population of just under 1,000. The current expansion was begun in the 1990s. Rolleston had a population of 1,974 at the 2001 census, 3,822 at the 2006 census, and 9,555 at the 2013 census.[2]

The radiata pine plantations that were once a feature of this part of Canterbury have largely been replaced by more water-intensive grazing land to take advantage of the "dairy boom" of the early 21st century. Shelter belts of radiata, another significant earlier feature of the Plains (and very effective at mitigating the desiccating effects of the nor'west wind), have also been removed as they formed a barrier to the huge central-pivot irrigators that are now commonplace in the area. Rolleston is very exposed on the Canterbury Plains and is therefore slightly drier, with a more continental climate, than nearby Christchurch. There are many vineyards in the area.


Rolleston has a large community centre and library, two supermarkets, two medical centres, three community pharmacies, a dental surgery, physiotherapy and acupuncture, veterinary service, an aquatic centre, coffee shops and restaurants and various other service industries befitting a rapidly growing, but still rural, community.

Rolleston is home to the RYAG (Rolleston youth action group) which is a group formed for Rolleston youth to have a say about what they want in their town. Thanks to some determined youth, Rolleston as of 2010 is building a new skate park and holding frequent discos and youth cafes.

Rolleston Prison is located just west of the town, housing up to 260 minimum to medium security male prisoners.[3]

Rolleston is also the home of the Rolleston Volunteer Fire Brigade.


Rolleston has two schools.

  • Rolleston School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school with a roll of 776 students (in October 2014).[4] The school opened in 1893.
  • Clearview Primary School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school with a roll of 656 students (in October 2014).[4] The school opened in February 2010.

There are no secondary schools in Rolleston - the nearest is Lincoln High School, 12 km away in the nearby town of Lincoln.

A third full primary school and a secondary school have been announced to cater for population growth in Rolleston, Lincoln, and the wider area southwest of Christchurch. West Rolleston Primary School will open in two stages in 2016 and 2017, while Rolleston Secondary School will open in five stages between 2017 and 2021.[5]


State Highway 1 passes through Rolleston on its route between Christchurch and Timaru. Plans are underway to construct a four-lane expressway/motorway between Rolleston and Addington in Christchurch. As of April 2014, the Addington to Hornby motorway section has been completed, and the Hornby to Templeton motorway and Templeton to Rolleston expressway sections have been consented with construction planned to start by early 2016.[6]

Two local bus routes serve Rolleston, both being part of Environment Canterbury's Metro system: route 88 (Rolleston) connects Rolleston with central Christchurch via Templeton, Hornby and Riccarton,[7] while route 820 (Burnham to Lincoln) connects Rolleston to the nearby towns of Burnham and Lincoln.[8]

Rolleston is the site of the railway junction between the Midland line to Greymouth and the Main South Line. The town served as a major railway junction point from the 1880s until the late 1980s, when the New Zealand government deregulated the railways, and Rolleston became a stop only for the tourist-oriented TranzAlpine rail service. As of 2010 passengers wanting to board the Tranzalpine at Rolleston must specify this when booking. In 1993 Rolleston saw one of the country's worst level-crossing accidents when a concrete truck ran into the side of a passenger train and killed 3 train passengers.[9]

Christchurch Earthquakes[edit]

Rolleston was close to the epicentre of the 2010 Canterbury earthquake being near the end of the Greendale Fault, experiencing movement two times the strength of that in Christchurch City. Residents were without power following the quake, some for more than 48 hours, and were required to boil water for weeks before services were restored. Rolleston was close to many of the aftershocks following the September quake.

Rolleston suffered low damage due the ground having underlying stones and stable rock. For such reasons, Rolleston has not been affected by liquefaction to date, and only a few houses have been condemned and demolished from earthquake damage.[10]

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake caused a minor amount of extra damage, mostly to buildings which had already been previously affected.

The population of Rolleston has expanded rapidly since the Christchurch earthquakes, due to the land stability and fast tracking of building consents by the Selwyn District Council. House and land valuations in Rolleston have risen faster than any other area of the country, and demand is very high with several new subdivisions being constructed.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2014 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.  Also "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014. 
  2. ^ "Selwyn's Izone growing". The Press (Christchurch: Fairfax New Zealand). 18 August 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. February 2003: Plan change allows for Rolleston's population to grow from 3000 to 14,000. 
  3. ^ "Rolleston Prison". Department of Corrections. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "Directory of Schools - as at 5 November 2014". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2014-12-06. 
  5. ^ Parata, Hekia (3 March 2014). "Minister announces establishment of new schools for Rolleston". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 20 April 2014. 
  6. ^ "Christchurch Southern Corridor -- Information Sheet". New Zealand Transport Agency. January 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2011. 
  7. ^ "88 Rolleston -- Timetable and Map". Metro Canterbury. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  8. ^ "820 Burnham to Lincoln -- Timetable and Map". Metro Canterbury. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  9. ^ "Concrete truck in near-miss with TranzAlpine express". The New Zealand Herald. 27 May 2008. Retrieved 2010-08-11. A collision between a concrete truck and the Southerner passenger train at Rolleston in 1993 cost the lives of three passengers [...] 
  10. ^ "Rolleston Suburb Damage". Rebuild Christchurch Foundation. Retrieved August 7, 2012. 

Coordinates: 43°35′S 172°23′E / 43.583°S 172.383°E / -43.583; 172.383