From the Canterbury Provincial Council in 1853 to the Selwyn District Council now, the changes that have occurred

Canterbury Provincial Council

The Canterbury Provincial Council was set up in 1853 and initially was responsible for administration of rural areas. The freeholding and much closer settlement of the land within 30 to 50 kilometres of Christchurch (particularly in the early 1860s) led to increased demand for roads, bridges, culverts and drains and it became accepted that the local settlers were better able to deal with these matters. Thus, road boards were established under the Road Districts Ordinance of 1863.

When Provincial Government was abolished in 1876, New Zealand was divided into 63 counties - these providing a link with Central Government and coordinating the work of the Road Boards. At this time, a lot of the provincial land revenue finally became available and road-building and other improvements received a real boost.

Selwyn County Council

The new 1877 Selwyn County Council (not to be confused with the one which was established in 1911 and was centred on Hororata) was based in Christchurch and had under its jurisdiction a total of sixteen road boards, namely: Rakaia, Lake Coleridge, Courtenay, South Malvern, East Malvern, Malvern, Upper Waimakariri, Ellesmere, Springs, Lincoln, Templeton, Riccarton, Halswell, Spreydon, Heathcote and Avon. In addition, the Tai Tapu Old mapRoad District separated from Little River in 1884 and transferred to the Selwyn County.

Much of the energies of the original Selwyn County were spent on the water race system and slaughterhouse controls, but it also issued dog licences, made grants for recreation grounds, reserves and cemeteries and dealt with the small bird nuisance - which plagued farmers for many years.

New Counties Formed

For a variety of reasons the big old 1877 Selwyn County eventually crumbled. By 1910, several road districts had already withdrawn, with the rest following during 1911. The end of the old Selwyn County saw nine new counties formed out of the following road board districts: Tawera was created out of Malvern & Upper Waimakariri; Malvern out of Courtenay, South Malvern and East Malvern; Selwyn (the second one) out of Rakaia and Lake Coleridge; Ellesmere from the Ellesmere Road Board; Springs from the Springs Road Board; Waimairi from Avon and Riccarton; Paparua from Lincoln and Templeton (and after two months it took Malvern's West Melton Riding); Halswell out of Halswell and Tai Tapu (and after a short while it took part of Paparua's Ladbrooks Riding); and finally Spreydon, which became a borough and merged with Christchurch City.


The amalgamation saga has continued throughout the 20th century. From the 1920s, the demand for better roads caused by the rapid spread of the motor car taxed the resources of smaller counties. In 1937, the first Labour Government introduced the Local Government Amalgamation Bill which aimed to reduce the number of counties by one third and bring about greater efficiency at a reduced cost.

Various proposals came and went, but finally 1963 saw Selwyn and Malvern merge, on the one hand, whilst Springs and Ellesmere also merged - Ellesmere taking the Rakaia Riding of the former Selwyn County. Thus Dunsandel township finally sat within one local authority. Tawera County hung back until 1967, when it merged with Malvern County.

In October 1989, Ellesmere, Malvern and part of Paparua counties amalgamated to form the Selwyn District Council.

Other Bodies

Various other administrative bodies have existed within the boundaries of the current Selwyn District. Some of the main ones that feature in our archives are the records of town boards (and later) councils, such as Southbridge (1885-1959) and Leeston (1922-1959). We also have records of domain boards and cemetery boards which were formed in the early Selwyn County Council days of the late 1870s.

There have been various ad-hoc (or single purpose) bodies created over the years, such as the North Rakaia River Board of Conservators which was set up in 1872 and the Lake Ellesmere Drainage Board at the end of 1905. Some of these archives are held by Environment Canterbury.