Places of Selwyn

Descendants of Te Ruahikihiki settled on the shores of Te Waihora | Lake Ellesmere. Selwyn District is named after the river, which was named for Bishop George Augustus Selwyn.

We'll recommend websites and collections to find out these histories and more.

Photo of a sign headed 'Rolleston Town Development'. It has a street map and a list of what the 'Town of the Future' will include.

Image: Rolleston town development by Annette Foster. Collection: Kā Kōrero o Waikirikiri | Selwyn Stories

Which places can I learn about?

Here are some places in Selwyn you could find out about:

Te Waihora | Lake Ellesmere

Te Waihora | Lake Ellesmere
New Zealands fourth largest lake, The Fish Basket of Rākaihautū.

Find out about Te Waihora
Arthur's Pass and tunnel

Arthur's Pass and tunnel
Connects Christchurch to the West Coast.

Find out about Arthur's Pass
Selwyn River | Waikirikiri

Selwyn River | Waikirikiri
Starts in the Canterbury foothills above Whitecliffs. Snakes its way across the Canterbury Plains to enter Lake Ellesmere.

Find out about the Selwyn River
Te Pā o Moki

Te Pā o Moki
Marae in Taumutu.

Find out about Te Pā o Moki

Largest town in Selwyn. Began as a railway terminus in 1866.

Find out about Rolleston
Burnham Military Camp

Burnham Military Camp
Military base since 1918. The transit of Venus was observed there in 1882. Biggest military camp on the South Island.

Find out about Burnham Military Camp

Tips: These are just some examples of places you could research. You may have somewhere different you're interested in finding out about. Just use the place name as your search terms in the resources below.

Selwyn resources

The following resources have information about the history of places in Selwyn.

Selwyn District Council

This is the website for the Selwyn District Council. It has information abut the history of the District and information about the different townships.

For information about Selwyn history:

  • select Community and choose Arts, Culture & Heritage

  • go to History & Heritage, then

  • choose a topic you want to find out about.

For information about the townships:

  • select Community and choose Living in Selwyn

  • go to Townships, and

  • choose a town to find out about.

Te Taumutu Rūnanga

This is the website for Te Taumutu Rūnanga. They are a Papatipu Rūnanga for Ngāi Tahu and have guardianship over land and water in their area.

Kā Kōrero o Waikirikiri | Selwyn Stories

This is a place for stories about Selwyn's past and present. It includes pictures, written and oral narratives, and collections of items.

  • Search using the name of a place.

  • Or go to the Places menu to browse.

  • Select a place to find a description and any items related to them.

Kā Huru Manu

This is the Cultural Mapping Project created by Ngāi Tahu. It maps traditional Māori place names and stories within the Ngāi Tahu rohe (tribal area). You can search any area within Selwyn to find out it's historical significance to Ngāi Tahu.

  • Enter an address of place name in the search bar.

  • Select a feature on the map to get more information about that place.

Selwyn Heritage Collection

A reference collection of historical books and pamphlets that can be found at Te Ara Ātea library in Rolleston or Darfield Library.

  • Browse the collection online.

  • Or enter your keywords in the search box.

  • Then in Limit Search Results under Shelf Location choose Selwyn Heritage Collection.

  • You can then see the items and which library they can be found at.

  • Or you can visit the library and ask a librarian for help.

Hororata Museum

The Hororata Museum collection includes family, rural and social history from Hororata.

  • Cotons Road, Hororata.

  • Look down the page to find out when the museum is open.

General New Zealand resources

These websites have some fantastic information about the history of New Zealand and Selwyn.


NZHistory is a great website for information about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we go all the way down the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Browse the stories online.

  • Or enter the name of a place in the search box.

Tips: We like sites that are from government or other reputable organisations, because we can trust the information. You can sometimes tell these sites by their web address – they might have .gov or .edu in their address – or by looking at their About us or Contact pages.

New Zealand Geographic Online

New Zealand Geographic Online is an EPIC resource. It is an online collection of the New Zealand Geographic magazine which includes news stories, stories with an opinion, and stories about the outdoors.

  • Log in with epic login details.

  • Choose to search at the top bar.

  • Use keywords in the search box.

  • Select an article to read.

Tips: To get to the EPIC resources you will need a password from your school librarian first. Or you can chat with one of our AnyQuestions librarians between 1 and 6pm Monday to Friday and they will help you online. Some EPIC databases may also be available through your public library.

Papers Past

Papers Past is a searchable collection of early New Zealand newspapers (19th and 20th centuries), letters, diaries, magazines and Parliamentary Papers digitised by the National Library and partners. It includes the Ellesmere Guardian newspaper.

  • Choose the type of paper at the top bar.

  • Use keywords in the search box.

  • Sort articles by best match.

  • Select an item to read it.

Tips: If your keyword doesn’t work, try thinking of other words you could use. Sometimes there are different names or spellings for words. Or they could have changed over time.

Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand

Te Ara is an excellent starting point for all questions about New Zealand Aotearoa. If we look down to the bottom of the page we can see that the website belongs to the Ministry for Culture & Heritage, so the information is well-researched and reliable.

  • Choose the Section called Places.

  • Choose Canterbury and Canterbury Places.

  • This has information about the Darfield and Ellesmere districts.

Department of Conservation (DOC)

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is the government website about preserving the natural and historical places of New Zealand. You can see it’s a government site by looking at the About us or Contact links at the top of the page.

  • Go to Our Work and select Heritage.

  • Then choose Explore heritage sites by region.

  • Select Canterbury.

  • Choose a place to find out about.

Rārangi Kōrero | New Zealand Heritage List

This is part of the Heritage New Zealand website. It is a record of place-based heritage in New Zealand.

  • To browse places, under Local Authority select Selwyn District.

  • Then select the Show listings button to see all the places.

  • You also have the option to use filters to search by keywords, list types or show listings.

New Zealand Gazetteer

This is a tool on the Toitū Te Whenua | Land Information New Zealand website where you can search for place names in New Zealand. Some places will tell you where the name came from, or other names a place may have had.

  • Enter a place name into the search bar.

  • Names in bold are an official place name.

  • Look in the Details section for history or meaning of the name.


This is a search site that focuses on Aotearoa New Zealand's history and brings together results from lots of different websites such as New Zealand libraries, museums, universities, and government sites all at once.

  • Search using the name of a place.

  • Look at a range of videos, audio, articles and images, and more about your topic.


These books are all about Selwyn and it's history. Your local librarian is a great person to ask for the best books about your local area. There are copies of the books available to borrow from Selwyn Libraries.

More about Selwyn

People of Selwyn

Here are some sources you could look at if you'd like to find out about individual people or groups of people relating to Selwyn.

Learn about people of Selwyn

Events of Selwyn

Lots of things have happened that have had an impact on the Selwyn District. The following resources explore these events and can offer some different perspectives.

Learn about events of Selwyn