Selwyn District

Selwyn District

The Selwyn district is a predominantly rural area in central Canterbury, on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island. It is named after the Selwyn River, which is in turn named after Bishop Selwyn, an early explorer of the area.

Local government

The district is governed by an elected mayor and a council of 10 members, elected simultaneously every 3 years. The last such election took place on 9 October, 2004.

The mayor is elected on a First Past the Post basis.

The 10 councillors are elected from four wards on a multi-member First Past the Post basis; the total number of votes a candidate receives are considered. 2 councillors are elected from Ellesmere ward, 2 from Malvern, 3 from Selwyn Central, and 3 from Springs.

Malvern and Selwyn Central wards also have Community Boards, which have powers delegated to them by the Council.

The Selwyn District is within the Canterbury region so Canterbury Regional Council has responsibilities for regional planning, and water, air, discharge and river bed resource consents.

The Selwyn District has powers delegated to it by the Government of New Zealand, and carries out its duties with regard to laws such as the Local Government Act 2002 and the Resource Management Act.


The Selwyn District lies in central Canterbury, and occupies a central position in the South Island.

Boundaries: On the Canterbury Plains, the Waimakariri River forms the northern boundary; in the hill country the border with the Hurunui District is more arbitrary. The eastern boundary comprises (from north to south) the city of Christchurch, Banks Peninsula, and the South Pacific Ocean. The southern boundary is the Rakaia River, beyond which lies Ashburton District. The western boundary is the main divide of the Southern Alps.

Geographical Features: Selwyn District contains within it two distinct regions: the plains and the high country. The plains, where most of the population lives and the majority of activity takes place, form an expanse of low-lying, flat, and comparatively dry grassland. The extreme south-east is dominated by Lake Ellesmere (Waihora), an expanse of water surrounded by marshes, formed by the out-flow of the Selwyn River. The tributaries of the Selwyn River include the Waianiwaniwa River, the Hororata River and the Hawkins River.

The high country is a sparsely-populated region, mainly consisting of hill and mountain ranges and narrow river valleys. Most of the high country is grassland, including some tussocklands; areas of beech forest remain within the Craigieburn Forest Park and the Arthurs Pass National Park.

Population: The total population of Selwyn District was 33,666 at the 2006 census. Approximately half the population lives in the various towns and villages in the district, while the remainder are on farms. 95% of the population live on the plains. The largest towns are Darfield, Leeston, Lincoln and Rolleston. The towns of Springfield and Sheffield are on State Highway 73, where the foothills start to rise from the Canterbury Plains.

Climate: The plains have a temperate climate, characterised by warm, dry summers and cool winters. The Southern Alps are responsible for the relatively low rainfall, and also lead to a foehn wind, the "Canterbury Nor'Wester". This strong, hot and dry wind is most common in spring and summer, and on occasion reaches damage-causing strength. In the mountain country of the Southern Alps, conditions are much colder and wetter.


Much of the district's economy is based around farming. Most of this is pastoral: beef cattle and sheep in drier areas, and dairy and deer farming in wetter areas. Some horsebreeding is also done. There is also a substantial amount of cropping; wheat and barley are grown on the plains, along with smaller amounts of grapes and other fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and flowers.

The services in the small towns primarily serve the surrounding community. The major exception would be in the town of Lincoln, home to a University and a number of Crown Research Institutes and other organisations concerned with scientific research.


The first inhabitants of the area were the Māori. The predominant Māori tribe today, as in most of the rest of the South Island, is Ngai Tahu, who have a marae (meeting house) near the exit of Lake Ellesmere.

In the late 19th century, European (chiefly British) colonists arrived and carved the area up into farmland. This has remained the predominant pattern ever since.

The Selwyn District as a unit of government was formed in 1989 from a legislated merger of the Malvern and Ellesmere counties, along with a portion of Paparua County.

Since this time, the district has enjoyed a stable and prosperous existence. Recent years have seen above-average population growth, believed to be people leaving Christchurch to settle in satellite towns like Rolleston or Lincoln, or on small farms.

External links

* [ Selwyn District Council]


* [ Map of the District]

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