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Hakatere  (Māori)
Secondary urban area
Aerial view of Ashburton, looking west. The Ashburton River/Hakatere is visible at left.
Aerial view of Ashburton, looking west. The Ashburton River/Hakatere is visible at left.
Country New Zealand
Region Canterbury
District Ashburton District Council
Ward Ashburton
NZ Parliament Rangitata
Te Tai Tonga (Māori)
 • Territorial 37.93 km2 (14.64 sq mi)
 (June 2020)
 • Territorial 20,200
 • Density 532.6/km2 (1,379/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Ashburtonian
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
Map of postcodes
Area code(s) 03
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu

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. It is 85 kilometres (53 mi) south west of Christchurch and is sometimes regarded as a satellite town of Christchurch.

Ashburton township has a population of 20,200. The town is the 29th-largest urban area in New Zealand and the fourth-largest urban area in the Canterbury Region, after Christchurch, Timaru and Rolleston.


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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.


Ashburton Territorial Authority
Ashburton Territorial Authority

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
Precipitation mm (inches) 58.5
Source: NIWA Science climate data


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Ashburton Domain
Ashburton Southern Alps
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 SH 1. The same track extends west along the river with a mountainbike track. The brand new Ashburton Art Gallery sits on State Highway 1 just outside the centre of town.

The Ashburton Club and Mutual School of Arts (MSA) was founded in 1885. 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.

The Aerodrome located near the town centre and is an active light (GA and Microlight) aviation hub and home of the Mid Canterbury Aero Club (GA) and Ashburton Aviation Pioneers.

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. The Ashburton, Rakaia, and Rangitata Rivers are suitable for 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 and Lake Clearwater are inland. 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.


The economy of Ashburton is influenced by the economy of the Ashburton District as a whole. In the year to March 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) of Ashburton District was $2,506m, representing 0.8% of New Zealand's total GDP. The largest proportion of the Ashburton District GDP is derived from primary industries, at 27.0%. This is substantially higher than the 6.2% contribution of primary industries to the national GDP. The next highest contribution to the district GDP was from 'Other services' representing 26.7% in the district GDP, versus 34.7% in the national economy. Goods-producing industries were 21.3%, versus 18.7% in the national economy. High-value services (such as knowledge-based service industries) represented the smallest proportion in Ashburton District GDP, at 10.2%, versus 25.6% in the national economy.

The town has businesses providing a wide range of services to farming in the district, including seed merchants, livestock companies, farm machinery dealers, banks, lawyers and accountants.


Ashburton lies in the middle of the fertile alluvial Canterbury Plains which permits agricultural activity such as dairying, provided irrigation is used. More than 100 local farmers grow potatoes, corn and peas which are processed locally.

The Ashburton District Council has a 40% holding in the company that manages the Rangitata Diversion Race. This scheme diverts water from the Rangitata and South Ashburton rivers into a canal that provides irrigation to large parts of the district.

Vegetable processing

A vegetable processing factory owned by Talley's is located on the northern outskirts of Ashburton. The factory was built in 1996 to take advantage of the good soils and irrigation of the Ashburton district. The factory processes peas, corn and potatoes. The potatoes are made into French fries, hash browns and wedges. Much of what is processed is exported to overseas customers. The factory employs 360 staff.

Meat processing

Ashburton was home to a lamb processing works from the early 1900s until 2017, when it was closed with the loss of 370 staff due to declining lamb numbers in Canterbury. The pelt house closed in 2019 with the loss of a further 44 staff. Talley's purchased the site in 2020 and had plans to use it to support vegetable production and use the cool stores for their frozen produce.

Cooperative companies

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).


Ashburton is described by Statistics New Zealand as a medium urban area, and covers 37.93 km2 (14.64 sq mi) and had an estimated population of 20,200 as of June 2020, with a population density of 533 people per km2.

The population of Ashburton was recorded as 2,322 in the 1901 census, 8,287 in the 1951 census, 10,176 in the 1956 census and 11,604 in the 1961 census.

Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
2006 16,188 —    
2013 17,883 +1.43%
2018 19,284 +1.52%

Ashburton had a population of 19,284 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 1,401 people (7.8%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 3,096 people (19.1%) since the 2006 census. There were 7,644 households. There were 9,531 males and 9,747 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.98 males per female, with 3,642 people (18.9%) aged under 15 years, 3,330 (17.3%) aged 15 to 29, 7,977 (41.4%) aged 30 to 64, and 4,338 (22.5%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 82.9% European/Pākehā, 9.1% Māori, 7.7% Pacific peoples, 5.8% Asian, and 1.6% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 17.0%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 43.0% had no religion, 46.8% were Christian, 0.8% were Hindu, 0.3% were Muslim, 0.4% were Buddhist and 1.9% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 1,626 (10.4%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 4,239 (27.1%) people had no formal qualifications. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 7,638 (48.8%) people were employed full-time, 2,328 (14.9%) were part-time, and 429 (2.7%) were unemployed.

Individual statistical areas
Name Population Households Median age Median income
Allenton East 2,121 852 45.3 years $33,100
Allenton North 2,547 1,008 47.7 years $34,900
Allenton South 2,121 813 36.0 years $33,700
Ashburton Central 141 66 53.6 years $31,100
Ashburton East 1,749 756 45.7 years $25,700
Ashburton North 1,050 378 48.3 years $36,400
Ashburton West 957 447 57.8 years $27,200
Hampstead 2,910 1,149 35.7 years $30,100
Netherby 2,130 789 36.0 years $33,100
Tinwald North 1,185 489 43.5 years $34,800
Tinwald South 2,373 897 40.4 years $31,900
New Zealand 37.4 years $31,800

Sport and recreation

Aquatic centre

A new aquatic centre was opened in Ashburton in May 2015. There are four indoor swimming pools within an 8000 square metre building. There are also four indoor courts and two outdoor courts and a gym. The facility is operated by the Ashburton District Council. The facility cost $30 million to develop and was designed by architects Warren & Mahoney.


The Ashburton Club and Mutual School of Arts (MSA) was founded in 1885. 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.

Golf courses

Ashburton is home to two golf courses. The Ashburton Golf Course is an 18 hole golf course which was established in 1895. The Tinwald Golf Club has an 18 hole course in the suburb of Tinwald. It was built in 1967.

Horse racing

The Ashburton Raceway is a horse racing venue that includes both a 1500 metre long trotting track and an 1800 metre long galloping track. There is also a Harness Racing Museum located at the racecourse. The racecourse is located off State Highway 1 at the northern end of Ashburton.

Mountain bike trails

A mountain bike trail was built by Mountain Bike Ashburton alongside the Ashburton River. The loop track is 11.5 km long.


Ashburton is home to the Mid Canterbury Rugby Union. Mid Canterbury play in the Heartland Championship.


Mount Hutt is the nearest ski field, located inland just past Methven.


Cricket has been played in Ashburton since at least 1877. The Ashburton County Cricket Association was established in 1896 with the name being changed on its centenary to the Mid Canterbury Cricket Association in 1996. Ashburton Domain is venue for home games. The senior men's team won national honours when they won the Hawke Cup in the 2003/4 season.


The Ashburton Speedway provides a race track for a number of categories of cars including stockcars, production saloon cars and street stocks. They also run a demolition derby once a year. The Ashburton Speedway is located next to Ashburton Airport on Seafield road.


Prince of Wales in Ashburton, Royal Tour 1920
Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) in Ashburton, Royal Tour (1920)

There are seven primary schools, an intermediate school, a secondary school and a composite school in Ashburton. All rolls are as of July 2016.

  • Allenton School is a state contributing primary (Year 1–6) school. It has a roll of 348 students.
  • Ashburton Borough School is a state full primary (Year 1–8) school. It has a roll of 415 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 1227 students.
  • Ashburton Intermediate School is a state intermediate (Year 7–8) school. The school opened in 1974. It has a roll of 376 students.
  • Ashburton Netherby School is a state contributing primary school. The school opened in 1959. It has a roll of 128 students.
  • Fairton School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 32 students.
  • Hampstead School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 317 students.
  • St Joseph's School is a state-integrated Catholic full primary school. It has a roll of 214 students.
  • Tinwald School is a state contributing primary school. It has a roll of 212 students.


Ashburton Hospital

Ashburton hospital 27
Ashburton Hospital (2021)

Ashburton Hospital is a 74 bed hospital based at 28 Elizabeth Street, Ashburton. The hospital provides medical, surgical, radiology and maternity care. It admits about 5,000 inpatients each year as well as seeing 2,600 day patients and 15,000 outpatients. It is run by Canterbury District Health Board and the rural health service employed approximately 550 staff in 2021.

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Ashburton's train station before it was demolished in 2013


The Main South Line railway line runs through the centre of town. The station opened on 24 August 1874 and the refreshment room was converted from table- to counter-service to save staff and speed service in 1944. The rooms closed in 1970, when the Southerner train started. That train ceased on 10 February 2002, but some barley continues to be sent by train to maltings at Marton. A container terminal is open on weekdays. The station was demolished in 2013 after several resource consent hearings.

Tinwald was the junction for the now-closed Mount Somers Branch railway line. Tinwald opened as Ashburton South on 31 May 1875. It was renamed from 18 March 1878 and closed before 1993 to passengers and on 11 October 1981 to all but private siding traffic. Part of the branch still operates as the Plains Vintage Railway.

Funding from the New Zealand government and the Ashburton District Council for a new rail freight hub was provided in October 2021. The project will move the rail container terminal from the centre of Ashburton to Fairton. The project is expected to be complete by the end of 2022, and has an estimated cost of $14m. It should help ease congestion on the roads in the centre of Ashburton.


State Highway 1 runs through the centre of Ashburton and provides the main road connection between Christchurch and Dunedin. The highway crosses the Ashburton river via a bridge that is the only direct route across the river for local traffic and State Highway 1 traffic.

SH1 Ashburton river bridge

The bridge on State Highway 1 crossing the Ashburton river was opened in 1931, and was the first 22 feet (6.7 m) wide bridge in New Zealand. On 1 June 2021, a severe flood in the Ashburton river caused scouring damage to piers supporting the bridge, and the bridge deck subsided, leading to a temporary closure. At the time of closure, there were no other routes for SH1 traffic wanting to go north or south across the Ashburton river, because all inland routes were also closed. On 3 June 2021, the bridge was re-opened for heavy traffic during daylight hours only, and all restrictions were lifted on 10 June.

The Ashburton District Council has been trying to obtain funding from Waka Kotahi (New Zealand Transport Agency) for a second bridge for local traffic and to provide more resilience to the road network. In 2021, the additional bridge was planned to be built in 15 years time.

Other routes

State Highway 77 starts in Ashburton and heads towards Methven, and then through the Rakaia gorge and on to Darfield.


The Ashburton Airport is located near the town centre and is an active light (GA and Microlight) aviation hub and home of the Mid Canterbury Aero Club (GA) and Ashburton Aviation Pioneers.

Notable people

Notable people from Ashburton 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 players Chris King and Fergie McCormick were 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.

John Grigg was a local landowner and Member of Parliament in the mid 19th century.

Dorothy Eden, a prolific novelist, grew up in Ashburton.

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