Story: South Canterbury places

Page 5. Temuka

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Town 19 km north of Timaru. It is South Canterbury’s second largest centre after Timaru, with 4,047 inhabitants in 2013.

Situated near the Arowhenua forest and close to early crossings of the Ōpihi and Temuka rivers, it was gazetted as a town in 1858 and surveyed in 1863, originally under the name ‘Wallingford’. It developed as a secondary industrial centre to Timaru, with early boiling-down and tannery works, a flour mill, a cheese factory and potteries. Temuka has one of New Zealand’s best preserved early 20th-century main streets, and a number of notable older public buildings and churches. It is also the location of the co-educational Ōpihi College.

Trendy tableware

In the 1930s Temuka’s pottery factory began producing teapots, vases, electric jugs, and the famous, heavyweight New Zealand Railways cup and saucer. In the 1970s it introduced stoneware dinner sets. These and other early pieces are now keenly sought by collectors.


Settlement 5 km south of Temuka. Arowhenua has been the main centre of Māori life in South Canterbury since the mid-19th century when the Māori people of the area moved from nearby Te Waiateruati.

An 1866 wooden church was replaced in 1931–32 by the present structure which stands beside State Highway 1. The meeting house is named Te Hapa o Niu Tireni ('New Zealand's broken promise') – a reference to the long-pursued claim of the Ngāi Tahu tribe, based on unfulfilled promises made when Europeans purchased the land. It was opened in 1905.


Locality 6 km west of Arowhenua. It was so named because many of the original settlers came from County Kerry, south-western Ireland.

The Levels

Farming district 9 km south-east of Pleasant Point. The name Levels, from Yorkshire, was given by the Rhodes brothers to the first sheep run taken up in South Canterbury. The family’s original farmhouse was restored in the late 1940s.

The district extends onto the southern extremity of the Canterbury Plains, where Timaru’s airport was built in the early 1950s.

Ōpihi River

One of the major ‘foothill’ rivers of South Canterbury, the Ōpihi rises north and west of Fairlie and flows into the Canterbury Bight east of Temuka. Below Fairlie it runs through a short gorge. The main tributaries, the Opuha (from the north) and Tengawai (from the south), join it below this gorge. Its reputation as a trout-fishing river has suffered from water being taken for irrigation, and from polluting farm run-off.

Pleasant Point

Town 19 km north-west of Timaru, with a 2013 population of 1,278. Pleasant Point began life as an outstation, known as Hodstock, of the Levels sheep run. The ‘Point’ could refer either to the junction of the Tengawai and Ōpihi rivers, or to the toe of the spur around which the township developed.

An accommodation house was built in 1864. From 1908 to 1954, it was an independent town district. The population is slowly declining, and in 2004 the high school closed. The railway from Washdyke reached Pleasant Point in 1875. After the 1968 closing of the Fairlie branch line, the Pleasant Point station and a section of track became the nucleus of a museum, the prize exhibit of which is an engine, Ab699, which once hauled the ‘Fairlie Flyer’.


Township 6 km north of Temuka. Its population in 2013, 264, was down substantially from the 1956 figure of 410. It survives by serving travellers and local farmers. The annual show of the Temuka and Geraldine Agricultural and Pastoral Association, founded in 1874, has been held on the Winchester Domain since 1910.

How to cite this page:

John Wilson, 'South Canterbury places - Temuka', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 13 July 2024)

Story by John Wilson, published 28 Feb 2007, updated 17 Aug 2015