Canterbury: Southwest Christchurch
Thu 24 Nov 2016 by Gareth Kiernan in Regional Hotspots

This article is part of the Regional Hotspots report. To find out more about the report and other hotspots, click here


  • Population growth 2013-2023: 85% (22,790 people)
  • The drift in population since the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 has been another contributor to population growth and residential development in Rolleston, Wigram, Prebbleton, Lincoln and around Halswell.
  • The unexpected acceleration of population growth around Halswell has left the area underserved in retail and social and community amenities.
  • The populations in Prebbleton and Lincoln are both expected to expand by 30-40% over the next eight years, helping to make the demarcation of the city’s suburbs and nearby towns less pronounced.
  • The drift of business activity towards the west of the city combined with development on the Christchurch Southern Motorway makes Southwest Christchurch an attractive proposition.

At the 1996 census, Rolleston was home 1,053 people – a town about the same size as Reefton. Since that time, there has been a population explosion, with Christchurch City’s urban limits contributing to the rapid growth of the satellite town.

Rolleston followed a trend whereby its population roughly doubled at each of the subsequent censuses in 2001, 2006, and 2013. This growth has seen the Selwyn District Council invest in the development of a community centre, library and aquatic centre in the town, while the Council’s Izone Southern Business Hub has been an increasingly popular place for industrial and distribution businesses to site their operations, boosting local economic activity and employment opportunities.

Since Christchurch’s devastating earthquakes in 2011, the northwards and westwards drift of the city’s population has been a new contributor to Rolleston’s growth. Rolleston remains a core component of growth towards the southwest of Christchurch, although the town’s population growth is projected to be much less meteoric in coming years.

Sitting at about 10,000 people at the 2013 census, Rolleston’s population is not expected to top 20,000 until the 2030s. However, even this rate of population growth will still need further substantial development of retail, community, and education facilities in the town. A secondary school is set to open in Rolleston in 2017.

But it has not only been Rolleston that has felt the effects of the changes due to the earthquakes. Major new residential developments have been taking place at Wigram, Prebbleton, Lincoln, around Halswell, and further west towards West Melton and Kirwee. This residential building work has been complemented by businesses being forced to locate themselves away from the CBD in areas such as Addington, Riccarton, Hornby, and Avonhead, meaning that living on the western outskirts of the city has been relatively convenient for many people with regards to their places of work.

The unexpected acceleration of population growth around Halswell in particular, including Aidanfield and Hendersons Basin, has left the area underserved in terms of a range of services, including the retail offering, social and community amenities, and school facilities. A major mixed-use development has been proposed between Halswell Road and Sparks Road, including a large outdoor shopping centre, a retirement village, and as many as 400 townhouses. The Ngā Puna Wai Sports Hub, to the north between Halswell Road and the Christchurch Motorway, is scheduled to be completed by late 2018 and will be a major drawcard for the area.

Residential development in Wigram has been accompanied by the construction of retail and office space at The Landing. This town centre is designed to complement existing larger-scale retail offerings at Hornby and Riccarton. Continued population growth in Wigram is likely to result in a need for increased community facilities, while the absence of a secondary school in the area will also need to be addressed at some stage.

The other hubs of growth in Southwest Christchurch lie within the Selwyn District. Prior to the 2011 earthquakes, significant zoning restrictions and the desire to maintain a green belt around Christchurch City meant that there was a strong demarcation between the city’s suburban boundaries and the nearby towns of Prebbleton, Lincoln, and Rolleston. That demarcation has become less pronounced as development has been forcibly accelerated towards and beyond the city fringes. Prebbleton and Lincoln still have a small-town feel to them, but are both expected to expand by 30-40% over the next eight years. Over the longer-term, development along Springs Road is likely to see Prebbleton, in particular, become more and more like a suburb of Christchurch.

Access from these towns into Christchurch City has already been improved thanks to the first stage of the Christchurch Southern Motorway. The $195m second stage of the Motorway extends past Prebbleton towards Rolleston and is part of the government’s Roads of National Significance programme. It is due to be completed in 2020 and will further improve access into the central and southern parts of the city. The fact that there has been a significant drift of business activity and employment towards the west of the city has also helped make the option of commuting from these towns a more attractive alternative than it was previously.

Although the growth pressures are not as intense, development is also occurring along SH73 at Yaldhurst and West Melton. Once again, the shorter post-quake commute to the western edges of Christchurch, rather than the central city, has boosted demand for housing in these localities.

"The unexpected acceleration of population growth around Halswell has left the area underserved in retail and social and community amenities."

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