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Skyline of Leeston
Leeston is located in New Zealand
Location of Leeston
Coordinates: 43°46′S 172°18′E / 43.767°S 172.300°E / -43.767; 172.300Coordinates: 43°46′S 172°18′E / 43.767°S 172.300°E / -43.767; 172.300
Country New Zealand
IslandSouth Island
Territorial authoritySelwyn District
 • Total1.90 km2 (0.73 sq mi)
Population (June 2018)[1]
 • Total1,870
 • Density980/km2 (2,500/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Local iwiNgāi Tahu

Leeston is a town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand. It is located 30 kilometres southwest of Christchurch, between the shore of Lake Ellesmere and the mouth of the Rakaia River. The town is home to a growing number of services which have increased and diversified along with the population. Leeston has a supermarket, schools (pre-school, primary school and high school), churches, hospital (for the elderly only), gym, cafes, restaurants, medical centre, pharmacy and post office. The Selwyn District Council currently has a service office in Leeston, after the headquarters was shifted to Rolleston.

Leeston had a 2006 population of 1,299[2] up 8.3%, or 99 people, since the 2001 census. This is significantly above the average population growth rate in New Zealand, though not as high as centres close to Christchurch. The 2013 census returned a population of 1,506, which is 15.9% higher than the 2006 census. Population growth is expected to continue due to people leaving Christchurch as a result of the 2010 Canterbury earthquake and the 2011 Canterbury earthquake.[3]

Leisure and entertainment[edit]

A rare White Swan feeding at Harts Creek

Harts Creek[edit]

Harts creek is a spring-fed creek and wildlife reserve located 7 minutes drive from Leeston and is a popular place for short walks, picnics, fly fishing and bird watching. Restoration projects have resulted in a wildlife reserve with some of the clearest waters in the Ellesmere District.[4]

Bird life includes:

  • mute swans
  • black swans
  • pukeko
  • parekareka/spotted shag
  • Canada geese
  • several species of duck
  • kōtuku/white heron
  • kakī/pied stilts
  • kamana/crested grebe
  • matuku/Australasian bittern[5]

Ellesmere A&P Show[edit]

Shops on the main street

The Ellesmere A&P show is currently in its 147th year. It is held annually at the Leeston Agricultural and Pastoral Showgrounds. It is typically held in October and is one of the Selwyn Districts biggest events, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year. Typical attractions include: farmyard displays, photography displays, craft stalls, sheep and wool displays, horse showing and jumping, dairy and beef cattle, wood chopping, trade displays, live music, vintage and modern machinery, dog trials, face painting, pony rides, shearing competitions, fair-ground rides, wine tasting, wearable arts and many more. The Ellesmere A&P show is currently in its 147th year.


The Leeston District is home to three campsites, two situated on the banks of the Selwyn River, and one on the shores of Lake Ellesmere.

  • Coes Ford Camp Ground: Camping is permitted for a maximum of 28 days and is free of charge. Coes Ford is a good spot for camping, fishing, picnics, casual recreation and conservation. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water. Coes Ford is available for camping all year round.
  • Chamberlains Ford Camp Ground: This is a Selwyn District Council designated camping ground. Camping here is free - has a good waterhole for swimming. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water. Chamberlains Ford Camp Ground is available for camping all year round.
  • Lakeside Domain Camp Ground: This camp site is situated on the shores of Lake Ellesmere, New Zealand's 5th largest lake. A good spot for bird watching and recreational water sports. This is a free camp ground. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water.[6]

Other activities[edit]

In May 2017, a community art gallery was opened in Leeston. It is Leeston's first art gallery.[7]

Leeston is home to a variety of different sporting clubs and has a weekly running club each Wednesday evening. Sporting clubs in Leeston include: Rugby, Netball, Tennis, Lawn Bowls, Soccer, Cricket and Running. Leeston also has a fully equipped gym, which is open seven days a week from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.[8]


Its primary school was opened in 1865 and consolidated during the early 20th century. It was located on the west side of Leeston, with school residences being built in 1868. Its peak roll was 275, with classes in woodwork and metalwork for the males and cookery and sewing for the females being introduced in 1897. A side school for younger pupils was opened in Doyleston, and named Leeston Side School. Its peak roll was 131.

There were many other schools in the Ellesmere area, including Doyleston School, Irwell School, Lakeside School, Brookside School, Killinchy School, and Little Rakaia School. These schools had very small rolls, and as early as 1898 there was a proposal that they should be closed and their pupils moved to the schools in the larger townships of Leeston and Southbridge. The Board replied that while the advantages that might accumulate from such a move were recognized, no funds were available for the purpose and no power existed to make attendance compulsory. The matter then was left alone for quarter of a century.

In early 1923, the Chair of Education at Canterbury University College, Professor James Shelley, gave a public address in the Leeston Town Hall. He promoted the idea of closing a number of small schools and moving their pupils to Leeston Primary. The Ellesmere Guardian followed this up with an article supporting the idea. Some months later, at a meeting of the Leeston own Board, Dr. B. Volckman moved that Leeston was a suitable trying out ground for such consolidated. The clerk was instructed to send this resolution to the Canterbury Education Board after a unanimous vote of the members. For the next ten years the theoretical advantages and disadvantages of consolidation were discussed on and off.

In December 1936, the party favourable to the consolidation gained a victory when a meeting of householders in Irwell voted in favour of consolidating Irwell School with Leeston. A week later, similar victories were achieved at Lakeside and Doyleston, with resolutions also being passed despite some opposition. Irwell and Doyleston pupils became foundation pupils of Leeston Consolidated School by April 1938. Lakeside opposition managed to hold out for slightly longer, but after a household meeting in August 1939, the motion carried in 1936 was confirmed, and in February 1940 the Lakeside pupils were conveyed to Leeston. In 1945 Brookside School also consolidated with Leeston after falling roll numbers made it apparent that the school would soon only be entitled to one teacher. Killinchy School remained open until 1959, when its pupils were then distributed between Leeston and Southbridge.

Leeston Consolidated School is still in existence today, with approximately 200 families with children enrolled. It now has 7 Scale A teachers and 11 classrooms, as well as a library, a computer lab and a Reading Recovery room. Most children who attend the primary school then go on to attend Ellesmere College.


  1. ^ "Subnational Population Estimates: At 30 June 2018 (provisional)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018. For urban areas, "Subnational population estimates (UA, AU), by age and sex, at 30 June 1996, 2001, 2006-18 (2018 boundary)". Statistics New Zealand. 23 October 2018. Retrieved 23 October 2018.
  2. ^ Quickstats about Leeston
  3. ^ McDonald, Liz. "Canterbury house values up outside city". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 12 August 2011.
  4. ^ "Harts Creek Restoration - Waihora Ellesmere Trust". www.wet.org.nz. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  5. ^ (DOC), corporatename = New Zealand Department of Conservation. "Harts Creek Track". www.doc.govt.nz. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  6. ^ "Canterbury Tent Sites - Free or Cheap Camping". sites.google.com. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  7. ^ "The Record - Community art gallery opens". www.therecord.co.nz. Retrieved 2017-06-25.
  8. ^ "Carbon Gym | Your Local Ellesmere Gym". carbongym.co.nz. Retrieved 2017-06-25.

External links[edit]