Ashburton, New Zealand

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Hakatere (Māori)
Secondary urban area
Aerial view of Ashburton, looking west. The Ashburton River or Hakatere is visible at left.
Aerial view of Ashburton, looking west. The Ashburton River or Hakatere is visible at left.
Nickname(s): Ashvegas
Ashburton is on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Ashburton is on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand.
Coordinates: 43°54′20″S 171°44′44″E / 43.90556°S 171.74556°E / -43.90556; 171.74556Coordinates: 43°54′20″S 171°44′44″E / 43.90556°S 171.74556°E / -43.90556; 171.74556
Country  New Zealand
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Ashburton District
Electorates Rangitata
Te Tai Tonga (Maori electorate)[1]
 • Mayor Angus McKay
 • Territorial 6,187.40 km2 (2,388.97 sq mi)
Population (June 2015 estimate)[3]
 • Territorial 33,200
 • Density 5.4/km2 (14/sq mi)
 • Urban 19,600
Demonym(s) Ashburtonian
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Postcode(s) 7700
Area code(s) 03

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, a territorial authority encompassing the town and the surrounding rural area, which is also known as Mid Canterbury. It is 85 kilometres (53 mi) south west of Christchurch and is sometimes regarded as a satellite town of Christchurch.[4]

Ashburton township has a population of 19,600, with an additional 12,400 living in the wider district. The town is the 23rd largest urban area in New Zealand and the third-largest urban area in the Canterbury Region, after Christchurch and Timaru.


Ashburton's historic train station before it was demolished in 2013

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. The town is laid out around two central squares either side of the railway line and main highway, Baring Square East and Baring Square West.

"Ashvegas", Ashburton's common nickname, is an ironic allusion to Las Vegas.[5]


Ashburton is on State Highway 1 86 kilometres (53 mi) south of Christchurch. The Main South Line railway line runs through the centre of town, but passenger trains ceased on 10 February 2002. 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. Tinwald was the junction for the now-closed Mount Somers Branch railway line. The town has three other suburbs: Allenton, Hampstead and Netherby.

The Ashburton District extends from the Pacific Ocean to the Southern Alps, and from the Rangitata River to the Rakaia River, including the towns of Methven, Mount Somers, and Rakaia.


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 60 centimetres (24 in) on 12 June 2006.

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[6]


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

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).[7]

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.

There is a small recreational airport, Ashburton Aerodrome, serving the town.


There are seven primary schools, an intermediate school, a secondary school and a composite school in Ashburton. All rolls are as of July 2015.[8]

  • Allenton School is a state contributing primary (Year 1–6) school. It has a roll of 351 students.
  • Ashburton Borough School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school. It has a roll of 427 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 93 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 1193 students.
  • Ashburton Intermediate School is a state intermediate (Year 7–8) school. The school opened in 1974. It has a roll of 346 students.
  • Ashburton Netherby School is a state contributing primary school. The school opened in 1959. It has a roll of 130 students.
  • Fairton School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 26 students.
  • Hampstead School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 359 students.
  • St Joseph's School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary school. It has a roll of 228 students.
  • Tinwald School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 224 students.


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

There is a cinema, swimming pool and two local golf courses. There is a walking track coastwards along the northern side of the river from SH1. This was overgrown for many years, but has now been restored. The same track extends West along the river with a mountainbike track of exceptional quality.

The brand new sits on State Highway 1 just outside the centre of town.

The Ashburton Club and Mutual School of Arts (MSA) was founded in 1885 and continues to this day. 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.[9]

The Aerodrome is 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi) from the town centre and NZAS is an active light (GA and Microlight) aviation hub and home of the Mid Canterbury Aero Club (GA) and Ashburton Aviation Pioneers (microlight) both of whom offer flight training. The Aerodrome is unique with no landing fees and a large aviation museum on site.

The beaches adjacent to Ashburton are steep and shingly with a strong undertow, making them unsafe to swim, but suitable for surf-casting. In part to rectify the limitations imposed by the lack of recreational waterways, Lake Hood was constructed just south-east of Tinwald. It can be used for rowing, swimming, and water-skiing. The Ashburton, Rakaia, and Rangitata Rivers offer good fishing, the Rakaia in particular is renowned worldwide for its salmon fishing. Upper reaches of the Rangitata are frequently kayaked and rafted, reaching Grades 3-4. The Rakaia is known for jet-boating. The Ashburton Lakes (Lake Heron, Lake Camp, Lake Clearwater, and a number of smaller lakes) are around an hour and a half inland, and offer water sport and fishing opportunities[specify]. On the road to these lakes are Mount Somers and the Mount Somers walkway.

Mount Hutt is a South Island ski field an hour inland, just past Methven.

Prominent residents[edit]

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.[10]

John Grigg was born in 1828 at Brodbane, near Duloe in Cornwall, the son of John and Marian Grigg. Although he was a Cornishman by birth, his ancestors were of the Clan McGregor, who had been attainted prior to 1700. When, later, they moved to Cornwall they anglicised their family name to Grigg. Grigg, who was educated at the local “dame” school in Bodmin, was destined for a farming career, but an injury to his leg forced him to change his plans. For a time he studied theology, with a view to taking orders. But, despite his father's wishes, young Grigg turned again to farming and was apprenticed to his uncles Nattle. This training was cut short two years later (1847) by his father's death and Grigg returned to Brodbane, where he undertook to support his widowed mother, a brother and sister, and two step sisters.

Colonisation was in the air and Grigg was attracted by the challenge of large-scale farming overseas with its attendant problems. His decision to emigrate was hastened by the departure of Martha Maria Vercoe, the girl he intended to marry, who left Cornwall for New Zealand in 1848. In 1853 Grigg sold Brodbane and arrived in Auckland in 1854, where he obtained a lease of some land at Otahuhu. On 7 June 1855, at Trinity Church, Otahuhu, Grigg married Martha Vercoe.

Grigg was president of the Otahuhu Agricultural and Horticultural Society in 1861 and again in 1863 and 1864, when it had become the New Zealand Agricultural Society.

At Otahuhu Grigg began mixed farming — crops for export — hay for the army — and sheep breeding for exhibitions. He was particularly successful with sheep and exhibited as far afield as Dunedin. It was on these southern trips that he decided to settle in the South Island as he disliked the humid northern climate and, as an admirer of the Maori people, was concerned at the growing state of unrest among North Island tribes.

In 1864 Longbeach, Canterbury, was purchased. At least 2,000 acres were freeholded in that year and the remaining 30,000 acres were leased. It was not until 1871 that the whole 32,000 acres of “impassable swamp” of the survey plan was freeholded. The area, which extended from the Ashburton River to the Hinds, and 7 miles inland from the coast, contained some tongues of dry land, but in the main it was swamp — peat and silt on a clay subsoil. The Hinds River ran into the south-west corner and spread over the swamp area, as there was no direct outlet to the sea. Grigg was to spend the rest of his life converting this unproductive swamp into “the best farm in the world”. Development of the property began immediately, but Grigg lived at Avon Head, near Christchurch, until 1871, when the first homestead was built at Longbeach. At first he brought in cattle from all parts of Canterbury, fattened them, and each summer drove them over Arthur's Pass to the West Coast gold fields. He built miles of small drains through the swamp, and as it dried out he planted crops and commenced stock breeding. In 1867 a small area of wheat was planted and in 1869 the first sheep (5,000 merinos) arrived.

In 1882 Grigg's brother-in-law and partner, Thomas Russell, the banker, decided to withdraw his capital from Longbeach. Accordingly, the whole of the livestock and implements were offered in a historic sale which lasted a week and attracted buyers from all over New Zealand. The total amount raised was £35,000, of which Grigg himself paid £12,000. By this time, too, some of the original 32,000 acres had been sold and some 16,000 acres, in lots of 100–150 acres, fetched £9 to 15 per acre — which was a reasonable price as it had cost Grigg up to £4 per acre for draining the land. Generally such sales were made to Longbeach employees who wished to set up as independent farmers.

On his reduced acreage Grigg intensified his development plans. Tile drains were added to the existing open drains, a brickmaker was employed, and a brickworks manufactured drainage tiles on the estate. Each year some 40 miles of tile drains were laid, and by 1900 the total length exceeded 150 miles. During this time most of the farm buildings were replaced in brick and an imposing brick homestead was erected. Grigg was attracted by the possibilities of the export of frozen carcasses and, in 1881, he convened a meeting from which grew the Canterbury Frozen Meat Co., with himself as first chairman of directors. In 1883 Grigg chartered a sailing ship and consigned 4,000 Longbeach mutton and lamb carcasses for England. Unfortunately, the refrigerating machinery failed during the voyage and Grigg lost heavily, but even this setback failed to discourage him and he began to buy stock for fattening on a large scale. By 1894 there were 37,000 sheep on Longbeach, and in one season alone he fattened 80,000 sheep and lambs for export. Cropping was also intensified, and in one year over 5,000 acres of wheat was grown. A statement made in the House of Representatives in 1891 summarises these developments in terms of money: “Mr. John Grigg has spent £40,000 on improvements, he pays each year £4,000 to the railways for transport. His men save each year over £5,000. His place of 15,000 acres, was, when he got to it, impassable swamp”. The permanent staff at Long-beach usually numbered 150 and included not only farm workers but also a wide variety of skilled tradesmen.

In 1883 Grigg was attracted by the possibilities of dairy farming and he instructed his son, who was then in England, to procure for him the best dairy cattle in Europe. The black and white Dutch Friesian breed was selected and one bull and six cows were imported from Holland. In 1890 Grigg founded his last pure-breed sheep stud — the Southdown — and believed that this would be the sire for future export lambs. It was not for another 20 years that the Southdown received serious consideration, but for the last 35 years the breed has dominated export-lamb breeding in New Zealand.

Even while he was converting his “impassable swamp” into a highly productive model farm, Grigg found time for public duties. He served a term (1884–85) as member of Parliament for Wakanui, but was never entirely at ease in the political atmosphere of Wellington. He was a member of the Ashburton Roads Board from 1872–79, and of the County Council, which succeeded it, from 1879–99. At one time or another he served on the local school committee, the Ashburton Domain Board, the Hospital Board, both the Ashburton and Canterbury Agricultural and Pastoral Associations, and on the various stud-breeders' societies — and on most of these he was, from time to time, chairman or president. His interests in education found expression as a Fellow and Governor of Christ's College (Christchurch) and as a governing member of Canterbury University College.

A staunch admirer and friend of Bishop Selwyn, Grigg was a signatory of the original Constitution (1857) of the Church of England in New Zealand. For many years he served as a lay reader and was a member both of the Diocesan Synod, and of the committee appointed to provide a cathedral for Christchurch. In addition he built a small undenominational church at Longbeach to serve the little community. Grigg died at Longbeach on 5 November 1901 and is buried beside the church. He left two sons and five daughters.

An acknowledged leader of men, of hot temper controlled by a strong will, Grigg was reputedly an infallible judge of good men, and he certainly gathered about him a loyal band of highly skilled farm workers and tradesmen. Like Grigg, many of them spent their whole working lives on Long-beach. An imposing monument, provided by the public of Canterbury, depicting Grigg hatless, his heavy walking stick in hand, and with one foot on a field-drain tile amid the raupo reeds of the swamp, stands in Baring Square, Ashburton. A bas-relief below shows scenes of ploughing, harvesting, and shearing, and the four corners bear the symbols of justice, prudence, fortitude, and industry. But Grigg's most impressive memorial is the Longbeach area, which has been converted from a useless swamp into some 220 fertile farms, many owned by past employees and their descendants. The sentiments of his employees towards him is aptly expressed in the inscription they chose for the plaque to his memory in Longbeach Church: [11]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Mayor Bede O'Malley". Ashburton District Council. Retrieved 30 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2015 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.  For urban areas, "Infoshare; Group: Population Estimates - DPE; Table: Estimated Resident Population for Urban Areas, at 30 June (1996+) (Annual-Jun)". Statistics New Zealand. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Editorial comment 15 June 2011 - Ashburton Guardian
  5. ^ Peters, Pam; Collins, Peter; Smith, Adam (2009). Comparative Studies in Australian and New Zealand English: Grammar and Beyond. John Benjamins. p. 57. 
  6. ^ "Niwa Science climate data". 
  7. ^ "Ashburton Crowned ‘Cooperative Capital of NZ’". New Zealand Cooperatives Association (via 15 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "Directory of Schools - as at 17 August 2015". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2015-08-20. 
  9. ^ Ashburton Club and M.S.A. ; A century of achievement, 1885-1985. Pg.7
  10. ^ McCausland, Ray. "Hugo Friedlander". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved December 2011. 
  11. ^


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

External links[edit]