Ashburton District CouncilCommunity profile
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Ashburton District Council

About the profile areas

The 2018 population for Ashburton District Council is 33,426, with a population density of 0.05 persons per hectare.


Note: This page displays the area boundaries used for the 2018 Census. In some cases, these are significantly different to the pre-2018 areas. For more on this, see the Census 2018 page.

Location and boundaries

Ashburton District is located on the east coast in the centre of the South Island. Ashburton District is bounded by Timaru District to the south, Westland District across the Southern Alps to the west, Selwyn District to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The Rangitata River delineates the boundary between Timaru and Ashburton while the Rakaia River is the boundary northwards to Selwyn.

Name origin

The plan for forming the early settlement of Canterbury was governed by a group called the Canterbury Association, which purchased a huge area of land between the Ashburton and Waipara rivers from the New Zealand land company. Ashburton was subsequently named after one of the members of the Canterbury association, Lord Ashburton.

Profile areas
Ashburton District Council

Settlement history

Māori travelled through Ashburton District as early as 850AD. Before colonisation, the Ashburton District was a vast tussocky grassland with few trees and large braided rivers to the north and south which made crossing difficult. While nearby Christchurch was settled in 1850, the first building in Ashburton did not eventuate until nearly a decade later when an accommodation house built on the north bank of the Ashburton River in 1858. Ashburton town was survey in 1863 and transport through a coach service opened up the next year. Farming was the founding industry of the area with John Grigg of Longbeach recognised as a leading farmer of the time. Grigg later established the Canterbury Frozen Meat Company. Ashburton’s population slowly grew and the first school was built in 1872. The Canterbury Flour Mills was built the same year. Shortly after the Rakaia River was bridged connecting Ashburton with the fast-growing Christchurch just under 90kms to the north.

Land use

Ashburton District covers around 617, 500 square hectares, most of which is rural land. Farming dominates industry with an historical background in sheep and grain now diversifying into specialised crops (e.g. seeds) and dairy farming.


State Highway 1 runs through Ashburton and you can journey by car or bus. Air travel requires landing in nearby Christchurch airport, or the small Timaru airport. There is no passenger train service.

Major features

Ashburton is an outdoors mecca. Mount Hutt ski field in Methven attracts visitors in the winter, while fishing in the rivers (Rakaia River is world renowned for salmon fishing), white water rafting and boating opportunities make Ashburton District a freshwater paradise in summer. Beautiful scenic attractions include the Ashburton Gorge, Māori Lakes and on to Lake Heron, Lake Clearwater, Lake Camp and the Rakaia and Rangitata Gorges, Erewhon Station, the Mt Somers walkway and the stunning Sharplin Falls.

Included areas

Profile areas include Allenton East, Allenton West, Ashburton Central East, Ashburton Central West, Chertsey, Fairton - Ashburton East, Hampstead, Hinds - Ashburton North, Methven, Mt Somers, Netherby, Plains Railway - Tinwald, Rakaia .