Rolleston, New Zealand

Rolleston, New Zealand

Town in the South Island of New Zealand

Rolleston /ˈrɒləstən/ (Māori: Roretana, Tauwharekākaho) 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 part of the wider Christchurch metropolitan area.[3]

Quick Facts Roretana, Tauwharekākaho (Māori), Country ...

Rolleston is one of the fastest growing towns in New Zealand, having grown from a population of around 2,800 in 2001 to around 28,000 in 2023.[4] The town has a population of 29,600 (June 2023),[2] making it New Zealand's 23rd-largest urban area and the second-largest in Canterbury (behind Christchurch).


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.[5]

In the 1970s, Prime Minister Norman Kirk had a dream of turning the town of fewer than 1,000 people into a city of 80,000.[6] He nicknamed it the "Town of the Future", however the single "Town of the Future" sign has long since been removed from the entrance to Rolleston.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Selwyn District Council Buildings (April 2021)

Selwyn District Council proposed an industrial subdivision, Izone, in 2000. The council purchased rural land adjacent to the Main South Line opposite the town the following year. The Warehouse Group developed its South Island distribution centre at the Izone.[14]

Selwyn Health Hub (April 2021)

The Selwyn District Council built the Toka Hāpai Selwyn Health Hub in 2021. The Health Hub was completed in May 2021,[15] and has a Canterbury District Health Board Primary Birthing Unit as well Pacific Radiology, a physiotherapist and may have a general practice service. It was estimated to cost $14.7 million.[16]

Rolleston Library - Te Ara Atea (April 2021)

In late 2020, the Selwyn District Council were considering applications (private plan changes) to rezone land around Rolleston to accommodate a further 4500 houses. The Christchurch City Council was opposing this until concerns about the “significant adverse effects of downstream traffic within Christchurch” could be addressed.[17]

In 2021, a $85 million shopping centre called Rolleston Fields was planned to be built on the old Rolleston domain on Tennyson Street. It is expected to form part of a new town centre that has been master planned by the Selwyn District Council. It is expected to include cinemas and a covered farmers market. It is planned to be built in four stages. The Selwyn District Council are planning to also build a pedestrian square to provide an "identifiable heart" of the town.[18]

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.[19]

Rolleston suffered low damage due to the ground having underlying stones and stable rock. For such reasons, Rolleston had not been affected by liquefaction, and only a few houses had been condemned and demolished from earthquake damage.[20]

The 2011 Christchurch earthquake caused a minor amount of extra damage, mostly to buildings which had already been previously affected.[citation needed]

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.[21]


Rolleston is home to Pineglades Naturist Club, the South Island's largest naturist resort.[22][23]

The Selwyn Aquatic Centre. Undergoing redevelopment April 2021

The Selwyn Aquatic Centre has five pools including a 25-metre pool with ten lanes.[24]

Foster Park playground (April 2021)

Foster Park, Brookside Park and Rolleston Reserve provide sports grounds for many sports including cricket, softball, baseball, hockey, football, rugby, rugby league, athletics, tennis and netball. Foster Park also includes an off-leash dog exercise area.

The Rolleston public library, Te Ara Ātea, opened in December 2021. The $22.2 million building was designed by architects Warren and Mahoney. The two storied 2200 square metre building is expected to be the centrepiece of Rolleston's town centre.[25] Prior to its opening the library shared premises with the Rolleston Community Centre.[26]

The Selwyn Sports Centre, the largest sports centre in Canterbury, opened on 2 May 2021. It has eight indoor courts and an indoor walking track.[27]

Rolleston is set to build the South Island's biggest retail complex called The Station.[28]


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.[citation needed]

The warmest month of the year is January with an average high temperature of 23 °C. The coldest month of the year occurs in July, when the average high temperature is 10 °C. Monthly rainfall ranges between an average of 33mm in January to 56mm in July.[29] On January 26, 2021, a maximum temperature of 39.2 °C (102.6 °F) was registered.[better source needed]


Rolleston is described by Statistics New Zealand as a medium urban area, and covers 23.71 km2 (9.15 sq mi).[30] It had an estimated population of 29,600 as of June 2023,[2] with a population density of 1,248 people per km2.

More information Year, Pop. ...
Selwyn Sports Centre (April 2021)

Until 1990 the town had only a few sealed streets and a population of just under 1,000. The current expansion began in the 1990s.[32]

Before the 2023 census, the urban area had a smaller boundary, covering 22.08 km2 (8.53 sq mi).[30] Using that boundary, Rolleston had a population of 17,532 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 7,926 people (82.5%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 12,510 people (249.1%) since the 2006 census. There were 5,622 households, comprising 8,679 males and 8,850 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.98 males per female, with 4,539 people (25.9%) aged under 15 years, 3,201 (18.3%) aged 15 to 29, 8,538 (48.7%) aged 30 to 64, and 1,257 (7.2%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 86.1% European/Pākehā, 9.4% Māori, 2.5% Pasifika, 8.9% Asian, and 2.7% other ethnicities. People may identify with more than one ethnicity.

The percentage of people born overseas was 23.0, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people chose not to answer the census's question about religious affiliation, 58.1% had no religion, 32.2% were Christian, 0.2% had Māori religious beliefs, 1.0% were Hindu, 0.5% were Muslim, 0.6% were Buddhist and 2.0% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 2,721 (20.9%) people had a bachelor's or higher degree, and 1,821 (14.0%) people had no formal qualifications. 3,420 people (26.3%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 8,346 (64.2%) people were employed full-time, 1,824 (14.0%) were part-time, and 315 (2.4%) were unemployed.[31]

More information Name, Area (km2) ...


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

  • Clearview Primary School is a state school with a roll of approximately 778 students. The school opened in 2010.
  • Lemonwood Grove School is a state school with a roll of approximately 876 students. The school opened in 2017.
  • Rolleston School is a state school with a roll of approximately 710 students. The school opened in 1893.
  • Rolleston Christian School is a state-integrated nondenominational Christian school with a roll of approximately 243 students. The school opened in 2015.
  • Te Rōhutu Whio School is a state school with a roll of approximately 255 students. The school opened in 2022.[39]
  • West Rolleston Primary School is a state school with a roll of approximately 742 students. The school opened in 2016.[40]

Waitaha School is a special needs school[41] with a roll of 134 students.

Rolleston College (April 2021)

Rolleston College is the sole secondary school in Rolleston, with a roll of approximately 1,783 students. It opened on 30 January 2017, initially taking only Year 9 students and adding year levels as the 2017 Year 9 cohort moved through; the school opened to all year levels (Years 9 to 13) in January 2021.[42] Prior to Rolleston College's opening, the nearest secondary school to Rolleston was Lincoln High School in Lincoln.[43]

All these schools are coeducational. Rolls are as of February 2024.[44]



Three local bus routes serve Rolleston, both being part of Environment Canterbury's Metro system: route 5 connects Rolleston with central Christchurch, Linwood, and New Brighton via Templeton, Hornby and Riccarton,[45] route 820 (Burnham to Lincoln) connects Rolleston to the nearby towns of Burnham and Lincoln,[46] and route 85 (Rolleston to Ara Institute) an express route connecting Rolleston with Central Christchurch and Ara Institute via Christchurch Hospital.[47]


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. In 1993 Rolleston saw one of the country's worst level-crossing accidents, when a cement mixer truck collided with a passenger train at the now-closed George Holmes Road level crossing and killed three train passengers.[48]

The Labour Party promised to invest $100 million in Christchurch's public transport, including commuter rail between Rolleston and the city if it won the 2017 election. Andrew Little said the Rolleston to Christchurch commuter railway line would be a permanent service and the Labour Party wanted to see it up and running "within a few years".[49] A commuter railway line would require significant central government money and land acquisitions to be achievable. The New Zealand Transport Agency expects the business case should be ready in 2021.[50]

A commuter rail link to Rolleston is still under consideration in 2022.[51][52]


State Highway 1 passes through Rolleston on its route between Christchurch and Timaru. In September 2020, the extension of the Christchurch Southern Motorway was completed, connecting Rolleston and Addington at Brougham Street.[53][54] This has significantly improved commuting times to Christchurch.[55]

A two-lane overbridge has been proposed to connect residential areas of Rolleston to the industrial zone (Izone), crossing SH 1 from Rolleston Drive to Hoskyns Road. Construction is expected to commence in 2024 and be completed in late 2027. The project is expected to cost of $125 million.[56]


There are several cycling-friendly routes available with another under construction. Christchurch City Council major cycleway routes programme includes the South Express route, leading from Hagley Park, through Riccarton, Hei Hei and Islington to Templeton where it transitions to Selwyn District Council.[57] From there, the route follows an off-road shared path and a quiet Manion Road until crossing State Highway 1 at Weedons Ross Road overbridge. The last mile is a sealed shared pathway and some further quiet urban streets.

Cycling between Rolleston and Lincoln follows a sealed shared path that runs beside "Lincoln Rolleston Road" and Boundary Road.


The nearest major airport is Christchurch Airport, 21 km (13 mi) northeast of Rolleston. The town is under the approach to runway 02 at Christchurch Airport, and the airport's 50 dBA noise contour extends into eastern Rolleston, which has limited development in these areas.[58]


Rolleston is part of the Selwyn electorate. The Selwyn District Council is responsible for providing local government services to Rolleston. The Selwyn District Council is based in Rolleston at 2 Norman Kirk Drive.[24]


Rolleston Prison is located just west of the town, housing up to 260 minimum to medium security male prisoners.[59]


Burnham Military Camp is located about 3 kilometres west from the town centre. Burnham was a major staging post for the NZDF and overseas military forces during the Christchurch Earthquakes.[60]


  1. "Urban Rural 2020 (generalised) - GIS | | GIS Map Data Datafinder Geospatial Statistics | Stats NZ Geographic Data Service". Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  2. MacDuff, Keiller (13 May 2023). "Population explosion tests Rolleston". The Press.
  3. Cameron Wood and David Hattam. "Rolleston – Developing a Town for the Future – Intensification in a small town" (PDF). New Zealand Planning Institute. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  4. "Rolleston: Time to take it seriously". Stuff. 20 August 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  5. Lever, Donna-Marie (7 September 2018). "Growth towns in NZ: The rise of Rolleston". Noted.
  6. "Brighter Future? The rise of Rolleston". RNZ. 6 June 2017. Retrieved 19 September 2020.
  7. "TEACHING THE TOWN OF THE FUTURE". Flint & Steel. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  8. "Rolleston town in Selwyn". Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  9. "Population explosion tests Rolleston". Retrieved 7 November 2023.
  10. "Selwyn's Izone growing". The Press. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 3 July 2019.
  11. "Major health services to open at hub". Selwyn District Council. Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  12. "Sixth largest shake rocks Canterbury". Stuff. 6 June 2011. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  13. "Rolleston Suburb Damage". Rebuild Christchurch Foundation. Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  14. "Growth towns in NZ: The rise of Rolleston". Noted. 7 September 2018. Retrieved 22 November 2019.
  15. "Selwyn District Council". Selwyn District Council. Retrieved 21 February 2021.
  16. "Selwyn District Council". Selwyn District Council. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  17. Liz McDonald (30 November 2021). "Te Ara Ātea cultural centre to open in Rolleston after years of planning". Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  18. "The Station: South Island's largest retail complex planned at Rolleston". Otago Daily Times Online News. 13 July 2022. Retrieved 18 December 2022.
  19. "Climate Rolleston". meteoblue. Retrieved 11 October 2020.
  20. "ArcGIS Web Application". Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  21. "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Rolleston North West (334900), Rolleston Central (335100), Rolleston North East (335200), Rolleston South West (335300), Rolleston South East (335500) and Rolleston Izone (334800).
  22. "Selwyn's Izone growing". The Press. Christchurch: Fairfax New Zealand. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 20 October 2010. February 2003: Plan change allows for Rolleston's population to grow from 3000 to 14,000.
  23. "New School Establishment - 2020-go851 - New Zealand Gazette". Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  24. Counts, Education. "Ministry of Education - Education Counts". Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  25. Parata, Hekia (3 March 2014). "Minister announces establishment of new schools for Rolleston". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  26. Counts, Education. "Ministry of Education - Education Counts". Retrieved 17 February 2023.
  27. "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  28. "Route Y map". Metro Canterbury. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  29. "820 Burnham to Lincoln map". Metro Canterbury. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  30. "Rolleston/City non-stop | Metro Christchurch". Retrieved 9 September 2020.
  31. "Concrete truck in near-miss with TranzAlpine express". The New Zealand Herald. 27 May 2008. Retrieved 5 October 2022. A collision between a concrete truck and the Southerner passenger train at Rolleston in 1993 cost the lives of three passengers [...]
  32. "Labour commits to Christchurch commuter rail in $100m package". Stuff. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2021.
  33. "New transport hub with park-and-ride proposed for Canterbury's Rolleston". Stuff (Fairfax). 6 May 2022. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  34. "Could rail be the future for Christchurch? Maybe not, but buses provide hope". Stuff (Fairfax). 15 November 2022. Retrieved 17 April 2023.
  35. "Citybound lane from Main South Road opening this weekend". Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  36. "Southbound lanes opening - second stage this weekend". Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  37. "Canterbury package | Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency". Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  38. "Major Cycle Routes | Christchurch City Council". Retrieved 11 October 2023.
  39. "Landowners battle Christchurch airport noise rules as housing land runs short". 27 December 2021. Retrieved 6 June 2024.
  40. "Rolleston Prison". Department of Corrections. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  41. "Burnham Military Camp". Retrieved 7 April 2023.

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