Leeston (Māori: Karumata) is a town on the Canterbury Plains in the South Island of New Zealand. It is located 30 kilometres southwest of Christchurch, between the shore of Lake Ellesmere / Te Waihora and the mouth of the Rakaia River. The town is home to a growing number of services which have increased and diversified along with the population. Leeston has a supermarket, schools (pre-school, primary school and high school), churches, hospital (for the elderly only), gym, cafes, restaurants, medical centre, pharmacy and post office. The Selwyn District Council currently has a service office in Leeston, after the headquarters was shifted to Rolleston.

Leeston War Memorial and Main Street.JPG
Location of Leeston
Coordinates: 43°46′S 172°18′E / 43.767°S 172.300°E / -43.767; 172.300Coordinates: 43°46′S 172°18′E / 43.767°S 172.300°E / -43.767; 172.300
CountryNew Zealand
IslandSouth Island
Territorial authoritySelwyn District
 • Total2.44 km2 (0.94 sq mi)
 (June 2021)[1]
 • Total2,370
 • Density970/km2 (2,500/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Local iwiNgāi Tahu


Leeston is described by Statistics New Zealand as a small urban area, and covers 2.44 km2 (0.94 sq mi).[2] It had an estimated population of 2,370 as of June 2021,[1] with a population density of 971 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [3]

Leeston had a population of 2,208 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 669 people (43.5%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 882 people (66.5%) since the 2006 census. There were 828 households. There were 1,083 males and 1,128 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.96 males per female. The median age was 39.3 years (compared with 37.4 years nationally), with 498 people (22.6%) aged under 15 years, 327 (14.8%) aged 15 to 29, 990 (44.8%) aged 30 to 64, and 390 (17.7%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 92.7% European/Pākehā, 9.9% Māori, 0.8% Pacific peoples, 2.0% Asian, and 2.4% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 15.2%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 54.5% had no religion, 35.1% were Christian, 0.1% were Hindu, 0.3% were Muslim, 0.1% were Buddhist and 2.2% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 240 (14.0%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 402 (23.5%) people had no formal qualifications. The median income was $37,400, compared with $31,800 nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 927 (54.2%) people were employed full-time, 243 (14.2%) were part-time, and 42 (2.5%) were unemployed.[3]

Leisure and entertainmentEdit

A rare White Swan feeding at Harts Creek

Harts CreekEdit

Harts creek is a spring-fed creek and wildlife reserve located 7 minutes drive from Leeston and is a popular place for short walks, picnics, fly fishing and bird watching. Restoration projects have resulted in a wildlife reserve with some of the clearest waters in the Ellesmere District.[4]

Bird life includes:

  • mute swans
  • black swans
  • pukeko
  • parekareka/spotted shag
  • Canada geese
  • several species of duck
  • kōtuku/white heron
  • kakī/pied stilts
  • kamana/crested grebe
  • matuku/Australasian bittern[5]

Ellesmere A&P ShowEdit

Shops on the main street

The Ellesmere A&P show is currently in its 147th year. It is held annually at the Leeston Agricultural and Pastoral Showgrounds. It is typically held in October and is one of the Selwyn Districts biggest events, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year. Typical attractions include: farmyard displays, photography displays, craft stalls, sheep and wool displays, horse showing and jumping, dairy and beef cattle, wood chopping, trade displays, live music, vintage and modern machinery, dog trials, face painting, pony rides, shearing competitions, fair-ground rides, wine tasting, wearable arts and many more.


The Leeston District is home to three campsites, two situated on the banks of the Selwyn River, and one on the shores of Lake Ellesmere.

  • Coes Ford Camp Ground: Camping is permitted for a maximum of 28 days and is free of charge. Coes Ford is a good spot for camping, fishing, picnics, casual recreation and conservation. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water. Coes Ford is available for camping all year round.
  • Chamberlains Ford Camp Ground: This is a Selwyn District Council designated camping ground. Camping here is free – has a good waterhole for swimming. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water. Chamberlains Ford Camp Ground is available for camping all year round.
  • Lakeside Domain Camp Ground: This camp site is situated on the shores of Lake Ellesmere, New Zealand's 5th largest lake. A good spot for bird watching and recreational water sports. This is a free camp ground. Toilets are available but there is no drinking water.[6]

Other activitiesEdit

In May 2017, a community art gallery was opened in Leeston. It is Leeston's first art gallery.[7]

Leeston is home to a variety of different sporting clubs and has a weekly running club each Wednesday evening. Sporting clubs in Leeston include: Rugby, Netball, Tennis, Lawn Bowls, Soccer, Cricket and Running. Leeston also has a fully equipped gym, which is open seven days a week from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m.[8]


Ellesmere College is a secondary school catering for years 7 to 13.[9] It has a roll of 558 students. The school opened in 1981 to replace Southbridge District High School.[10]

Leeston Consolidated School is a contributing primary school catering for years 1 to 6.[11] It has a roll of 306 students. It opened in 1865, and gained the name "Consolidated" in recognition of primary schools in Lakeside, Irwell, Doyleston and Brookside with which it amalgamated in the 1930s.[12]

Both these schools are coreducational. Rolls are as of March 2021.[13]


  1. ^ a b "Population estimate tables - NZ.Stat". Statistics New Zealand. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  2. ^ "ArcGIS Web Application". statsnz.maps.arcgis.com. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  3. ^ a b "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Leeston (336200). 2018 Census place summary: Leeston
  4. ^ "Harts Creek Restoration – Waihora Ellesmere Trust". www.wet.org.nz. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  5. ^ (DOC), corporatename = New Zealand Department of Conservation. "Harts Creek Track". www.doc.govt.nz. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Canterbury Tent Sites – Free or Cheap Camping". sites.google.com. Retrieved 26 June 2017.
  7. ^ "The Record – Community art gallery opens". www.therecord.co.nz. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Carbon Gym | Your Local Ellesmere Gym". carbongym.co.nz. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  9. ^ Education Counts: Ellesmere College
  10. ^ "The history of Ellesmere College". Ellesmere College. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  11. ^ Education Counts: Leeston School
  12. ^ "Welcome to Leeston Consolidated School". Leeston Consolidated School. Retrieved 27 October 2021.
  13. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 27 April 2021.

External linksEdit