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Rolleston, New Zealand facts for kids

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Minor urban area
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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)
50 m (160 ft)
 (June 2016)
 • Total 13,100
 • Density 666.7/km2 (1,727/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+13 (NZDT)
7614, 7615
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu
Rolleston, Canterbury, New Zealand
Rolleston from the air

Rolleston 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 13,100 (June 2016), making it New Zealand's 30th 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.

The radiata pine plantations that were once a feature of this part of Canterbury have largely been replaced by more water-intensive grazing land to take advantage of the "dairy boom" of the early 21st century.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.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±% p.a.
1996 1,520 —    
2001 2,760 +12.67%
2006 5,150 +13.29%
2013 10,000 +9.94%
Source: Statistics NZ

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 (note that census figures only count the Rolleston urban area as it was at the time).


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

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


Rolleston has five full primary (year 1–8) schools:

  • Clearview Primary School is a state school with a roll of approximately 718 students. The school opened in February 2010.
  • Lemonwood Grove School is a state school. The school opened in February 2017.
  • Rolleston School is a state school with a roll of approximately 799 students. The school opened in 1893.
  • Rolleston Christian School is a state-integrated nondenominational Christian school with a roll of approximately 85 students. The school opened in February 2015.
  • West Rolleston Primary School is a state school with a roll of approximately 84 students. The school opened in February 2016.

Rolleston College is the sole secondary school in Rolleston. It opened in February 2017 initially to Year 9 students only, and will add years levels as students move through. Students in years 10 to 13 are currently served by Lincoln High School, 12 km away in the nearby town of Lincoln.


State Highway 1 passes through Rolleston on its route between Christchurch and Timaru. In August 2016, construction began to extend the Christchurch Southern Motorway from its current terminus at Hornby to just east of Rolleston.

Two local bus routes serve Rolleston, both being part of Environment Canterbury's Metro system: the Yellow Line route connects Rolleston with central Christchurch, Linwood, and New Brighton via Templeton, Hornby and Riccarton, while route 820 (Burnham to Lincoln) connects Rolleston to the nearby towns of Burnham and Lincoln.

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 cement mixer truck ran into the side of a passenger train at the now-closed George Holmes Road level crossing and killed 3 train passengers.

Christchurch earthquakes

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.

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.

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