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Classified Land Drainage in the Selwyn District


The primary function of a land drainage network is to drain land. In some areas the drains also receive and convey stormwater from the townships. Many areas of the District are extremely flat and flooding and surface ponding can occur during and after heavy rainfall. The classified land drainage schemes help drain the land following these events.

Selwyn District Council has nine classified Land Drainage schemes which are all managed by the local land drainage committees.Osborne_Drain

Osbornes Drain Land Drainage scheme, Greenpark Land Drainage scheme, L2 Land Drainage scheme, Ellesmere Land Drainage scheme, Leeston Land Drainage scheme, Taumutu Land Drainage scheme and Culverts, Wairiri Valley Land Drainage scheme, Hororata River Drainage, Bealey River flood protection.

Global Consents

Council is working through a process of obtaining resource consent for all of its land drainage schemes. The first consent granted from Environment Canterbury was Osbornes Drain.

Drain Cleaning

Contractors working on behalf of Council, periodically clean or spray the classified drains, however not all drains are cleaned every year. Council's Land Drainage Advisory Committee's help to prioritise drain cleaning requests, considering budget and need.

Drain cleaning contractors work to guidelines of drain management best practice.

If you are concerned about your drain or needs to be inspected please Contact the Council or your drainage committee rep.



Land owners must ensure Council Contractors have access to classified drains for cleaning. If a drain cannot be cleaned this may caused issues to the whole scheme and prevent water being drained from adjacent properties. Please consider the location of gates in boundary and internal fences and in fence lines between drains, ensuring fences are an appropriate distance from the drain.

Land Owner Responsibilities

Land owners are responsible for maintaining vegetation adjacent to classified drains. All tree trimmings should be removed from drains immediately to prevent blockages.

Please make sure trees, hedges and other vegetation do not significantly overhang the drain.

Drain Ownership

There are ten classified Land Drainage districts of which the majority are located in lower lying areas around Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora). In addition there are schemes in the Wairiri Valley, Arthurs Pass (River Protection) and Hororata (River Protection). The classified drains are either located within private land or on Council road reserve. Not all roadside drains are Council Classified Drains. Within each classified drainage district there are a large number of private drains which are the responsibility of the surrounding or adjacent landowners. Environment Canterbury operate and manage the classified drains in the Halswell catchment.

Maps [PDF, 5422 KB] showing the Council classified drains.

Further details of these schemes are provided in the Activity Management Plan

Culverts/BridgesLand drainage Culvert

Each property owner owns their entranceway culvert over all types of drain and are responsible for its maintenance and replacement. Approval from Council is required prior to any structure being placed in a classified drain.

Damage to drains, entrance ways ana private property can occur if culverts are not installed correctly.

You can apply for an entranceway crossing online. Standard Drawings for culverts [PDF, 211 KB] over Council drains and swales.

Drain cleaning spoil

Spoil from drain cleaning activities is routinely deposited on the banks of the drains in windrows. Council remove tailings from the banks of drains when; it is considered a safety hazard, is within 0.5m of the road formation or when the operation of the drain is compromised. Council has some discretion to remove a small proportion of tailings from each scheme on an annual basis.

Contact the Council if you have a request for drain cleaning or spoil removal.


Selwyn District Council approval is required before any new structures are placed in a Council Classified drain or changes to a drain made. In addition to making an application to Council, it is the applicant's responsibility to consult with Environment Canterbury prior to excavation works being undertaken in or adjacent to any drain to determine whether resource consent is required.

Fencing Stock

To protect the quality of our waterways and Lake Ellesmere, Council encourage landowners to fence heavy stock (cattle, deer and horses) from all drains and waterways. Environment Canterbury regulates the fencing of stock from rivers, lakes and wetlands. For further advice on fencing requirements contact Environment Canterbury.


Planting of the land drainage network can be attractive and help increase native biodiversity and improve water quality.

Further details and approved list of planting.

Land Drainage Advisory Committees

Details of Council's Land Drainage Advisory Committee's can be found below:

Land Drainage Committee Committee Contact
Greenpark Land Drainage Mr B Clarke
Leeston Rural Land Drainage Committee (including Doyleston) Mr K Nurse
LII Drainage Committee Mr J Greenslade
Osborne Drainage Committee Mr S Manson
Taumutu Drainage and Culverts Committee Mr A Winchester
Hororata Drainage Mr S Oliver
Wairiri Valley Drainage Mr A Woodhouse
Ellesmere Land DrainageMr I Macfarlane

Current as at January 2019


Council has powers under the Local Government Act and Land Drainage Act 1908 to enter private property to investigate and undertake maintenance on classified drains. Council can require land owners to remove obstructions from any drain if it is causing flooding to other properties.

Council Land drainage and Stormwater Bylaw 2018 covers all calssified Land drainage.


Settlers from the 1850s onwards found the district mainly flax swamp with light tussock on the higher lands. In order to bring the swamps into production a system of drains was installed, some by the Ellesmere Road Board, but mostly by the settlers. The country became highly productive and up to about 1920 the drainage was reasonably adequate. With settlement the system became inadequate and flooding became frequent.

In the early 1940s the North Canterbury Catchment Board took over control of Lake Ellesmere and determined a policy of opening the Lake in summer and winter. The then Works Department also constructed two ocean discharge culverts that were lower than existing culverts. This allowed the benefits of significant improvements to drains (which took place from late 1942) that discharged into the lake and sea to occur.