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Te Tihi-o-Maru (Māori)
View down Stafford Street in 2006
New Zealand location map.svg
Disc Plain red.svg
Coordinates: 44°23′35″S171°15′03″E / 44.39306°S 171.25083°E / -44.39306; 171.25083
CountryNew Zealand
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Timaru District
Established13 July 1868 [1]
   Mayor Nigel Bowen
  Land2,736.54 km2 (1,056.58 sq mi)
33.98 km2 (13.12 sq mi)
Highest elevation
95 m (312 ft)
Lowest elevation
0 m (0 ft)
 (June 2022) [2]
  Urban density840/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+12 (New Zealand Standard Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+13 (New Zealand Daylight Time)
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu
Website timaru.govt.nz
Customs House, Timaru. Built in 1902 with local Bluestone Customs House, Timaru.jpg
Customs House, Timaru. Built in 1902 with local Bluestone

Timaru (English: /ˈtɪmər/ ; [3] Māori : Te Tihi-o-Maru) is a port city in the southern Canterbury Region of New Zealand, located 157 km (98 mi) southwest of Christchurch and about 196 km (122 mi) northeast of Dunedin on the eastern Pacific coast of the South Island. The Timaru urban area is home to 28,600 people, and is the largest urban area in South Canterbury, and the second largest in the Canterbury Region overall, after Christchurch. [2] The town is the seat of the Timaru District, which includes the surrounding rural area and the towns of Geraldine, Pleasant Point and Temuka, which combined have a total population of 48,500. [2]


Caroline Bay beach is a popular recreational area located close to Timaru's main centre, just to the north of the substantial port facilities. Beyond Caroline Bay, the industrial suburb of Washdyke is at a major junction with State Highway 8, the main route into the Mackenzie Country. This provides a road link to Pleasant Point, Fairlie, Twizel, Lake Tekapo, Aoraki / Mount Cook and Queenstown.

Timaru has been built on rolling hills created from the lava flows of the extinct Mt Horrible volcano, which last erupted thousands of years ago. The result is that most of the main streets are undulating, a clear contrast with the flat landscape of the Canterbury Plains to the north. This volcanic rock is used for the construction of local "bluestone" buildings.


Māori settlement

The origin of the name 'Timaru' is disputed. Some believe that it derives from Māori Te Maru, which can mean a 'place of shelter'. However, other authorities allege that Timaru originates from a literal translation of the combination of ti, a cabbage tree and maru, meaning 'shady'. [4]

Māori waka seem to have employed the site of Timaru as a place to rest on journeys up and down the eastern coastline for many years before the arrival of the first Europeans in the 19th century. The area includes over 500 sites with traces of Māori rock art, particularly in the rock overhangs and caves of the Opuha and Opihi river valleys, to the west of modern-day Timaru. Archaeologists have suggested that Māori iwi (tribes) were permanently settled in the district before 1400 AD. During the 17th or 18th century the resident Ngāti Mamoe were driven southwards into Fiordland by an invasion of the Ngāi Tahu, who came from the North Island.

Te Runanga o Arowhenua is the hapu for Aoraki/Timaru District. Their marae is located just outside Temuka. [5]

19th century onwards

Sacred Heart Basilica, built in 1911 Timaru Sacred heart Cathedral.jpg
Sacred Heart Basilica, built in 1911

European settlement began with the construction of a whaling station in 1839 by the Weller brothers of Otago at Patiti Point, close to the present town centre. [6] A supply ship, The Caroline, provided the name for a local bay. Later a sheep station, known as The Levels, was set up on land obtained by the Rhodes brothers, and run by George Rhodes. [7] [8] One of the earliest settlers was Captain Henry Cain, who set up a store in 1857 on behalf of Henry Le Cren of Lyttelton, and Le Cren himself moved to Timaru in the following year. [9]

Few lived in Timaru until 1859 when the ship SS Strathallan arrived from England, carrying a party of 120 immigrants. [10] Persistent land disputes arose between the Rhodes brothers and local government officials with the result that two townships were established in the port area, Government Town and Rhodestown. These eventually merged into a single community in 1868. Given this division, until recently none of the main north-south streets lined up. Stafford Street, which became the main thoroughfare, was formed along the early bullock wagon trail.

Following the loss of a number of vessels off the coast, the breakwater design by Engineer John Goodall was adopted and work started on the redevelopment of the artificial port in 1877, [11] which eventually caused sand washed south down the Pacific shoreline to build up against the northern mole. This was the beginning of the extensive land reclamation around the Caroline Bay district, an area which is still growing today.

Timaru continued to expand during the 20th century, with much of the development taking the form of wooden colonial style bungalows set in individual sections of land. Sacred Heart Basilica was opened in 1911.


Timaru is situated along the Pacific Ocean coast. Much of the hinterland is farmland. To the north and northeast are the Canterbury Plains.


Suburbs of Timaru Timaru suburb map.png
Suburbs of Timaru


Timaru has a relatively dry temperate climate similar to that of neighbouring Ashburton and Christchurch, classified as oceanic climate (Cfb) [12] by Köppen-Geiger climate classification system. Temperatures are warm in summer and mild in winter, with Timaru's extreme maximum temperature being 41.3 °C on 6 February 2011 [13] and extreme minimum temperature of −9.1 °C on 3 August 1998. [14] Rain is evenly distributed throughout the year, with a very small proportion of it falling as snow.

Climate data for Timaru (1981–2010)
Average high °C (°F)21.5
Daily mean °C (°F)15.9
Average low °C (°F)10.3
Average precipitation mm (inches)46.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)
Average relative humidity (%)77.783.583.885.485.685.085.483.778.777.375.276.381.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 192.7170.2168.6158.0130.1121.0131.0151.5156.5183.4189.0179.71,931.9
Source: NIWA Climate Data [15]


The Timaru urban area is defined by Statistics New Zealand as a medium urban area. It covers 33.98 km2 (13.12 sq mi) and incorporates sixteen statistical areas. [16] IT had an estimated population of 28,600 as of June 2022, [2] with a population density of 842 people per km2.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
Source: [17]

Timaru had a population of 27,498 at the 2018 New Zealand census, an increase of 1,236 people (4.7%) since the 2013 census, and an increase of 1,380 people (5.3%) since the 2006 census. There were 11,502 households. There were 13,368 males and 14,133 females, giving a sex ratio of 0.95 males per female, with 4,758 people (17.3%) aged under 15 years, 4,893 (17.8%) aged 15 to 29, 11,709 (42.6%) aged 30 to 64, and 6,147 (22.4%) aged 65 or older.

Ethnicities were 89.2% European/Pākehā, 9.3% Māori, 2.4% Pacific peoples, 5.2% Asian, and 1.8% other ethnicities (totals add to more than 100% since people could identify with multiple ethnicities).

The proportion of people born overseas was 13.8%, compared with 27.1% nationally.

Although some people objected to giving their religion, 47.8% had no religion, 40.9% were Christian, 0.9% were Hindu, 0.3% were Muslim, 0.3% were Buddhist and 2.1% had other religions.

Of those at least 15 years old, 2,892 (12.7%) people had a bachelor or higher degree, and 5,742 (25.3%) people had no formal qualifications. 2,979 people (13.1%) earned over $70,000 compared to 17.2% nationally. The employment status of those at least 15 was that 10,791 (47.5%) people were employed full-time, 3,264 (14.4%) were part-time, and 648 (2.8%) were unemployed. [17]

Individual statistical areas
NameArea (km2)PopulationDensity (per km2)HouseholdsMedian ageMedian income
Fraser Park 1.222,7512,2551,17943.1 years$30,500 [18]
Gleniti North5.461,49127360350.4 years$39,600 [19]
Gleniti South1.742,4331,39895150.8 years$29,900 [20]
Glenwood 1.051,7881,70372342.5 years$27,800 [21]
Highfield North1.412,3581,67296351.1 years$28,400 [22]
Highfield South0.951,2511,31751040.8 years$30,400 [23]
Kensington (Timaru District) 0.731,4642,00564239.2 years$27,900 [24]
Marchwiel East0.931,9802,12973537.4 years$25,200 [25]
Marchwiel West0.841,5271,81864839.7 years$26,800 [26]
Parkside 1.152,3762,0661,05340.7 years$27,400 [27]
Seaview 0.732,0882,86096941.6 years$28,300 [28]
Timaru Central 0.8240549417137.4 years$27,500 [29]
Timaru East 3.602737612340.1 years$27,400 [30]
Waimataitai-Maori Hill 1.502,0431,36291245.8 years$30,800 [31]
Washdyke 10.661,0179541144.6 years$32,300 [32]
Watlington 1.212,2531,86290939.8 years$30,300 [33]
New Zealand37.4 years$31,800


Timaru Council Building Municipal Offices & Public Library, Timaru.jpg
Timaru Council Building

The mayor of Timaru District is Nigel Bowen.

Timaru is part of the parliamentary electorate of Rangitata, represented by Jo Luxton of the New Zealand Labour Party.

Sister cities

Timaru District has established four sister city relationships. [34]


Timaru is an agricultural service town and port for the South Canterbury regional economy. [35] Timaru is one of the major cargo ports of the South Island, with a number of light manufacturing plants associated with the export and import trade. Many of these producers are concerned with processing, packing, and distributing meat, dairy and other agricultural produce.

Timaru is the second largest fishing port in New Zealand.

Allan Hubbard the chartered accountant and philanthropist established the failed finance company South Canterbury Finance and accounting firm Hubbard Churcher in Timaru and lived locally until his death in a car accident on 2 September 2011. [36]


Retailing is concentrated around the Stafford Street area. In addition there are a number of local shopping malls distributed around the city, with extensive car parking facilities.

Tourist attractions

South Canterbury Museum South Canterbury Museum.jpg
South Canterbury Museum

The South Canterbury Museum is the main museum for the region, containing exhibits relating to physical geography and the environment, fossil remains, Māori rock art, the early settlement of the district, local maritime history, scrimshaw, the E P Seally natural history collection, and information about Richard Pearse, a local inventor and his attempts at manned flight in the first years of the 20th century.

The Aigantighe (a Scots Gaelic word pronounced "egg and tie") Art Gallery in Wai-iti Road is the South Island's third largest art museum. It holds a collection of New Zealand, Pacific, Asian and European art works from the sixteenth century to the present day and includes a sculpture garden. The gallery was founded in 1956 and is housed in a homestead built in 1908.

Timaru has with a number of open spaces, public gardens and parks. The Trevor Griffiths Rose Garden at Caroline Bay Park [37] is a major feature of the Timaru Piazza development. The parkland of the Bay Area contains a mini golf course, a roller skating rink, a maze and staging for musical events. It is home to the annual Summer Carnival that takes place over the Christmas and New Year holiday period. To the south of the city centre are the Timaru Botanic Gardens, first laid out in 1864, with a notable collection of roses and native tree ferns. To the west is the Centennial Park Reserve, opened in 1940, that includes a tranquil 3.5 km walkway following the wooded valley of the Otipua Creek.

The DB Mainland Brewery in Sheffield Street offers tours and tasting sessions.

The Caroline Bay Carnival, featuring live performances, games, and side shows, takes place from Boxing Day through to mid-January at Caroline Bay Park. [38]

Aoraki Tourism is the official tourism body for the whole Timaru District. [39]

Recreation and leisure

Performing arts

The Theatre Royal at 118 Stafford Street was home of much of Timaru's live entertainment up to 2019, however it is currently closed for renovations. The South Canterbury Drama League hosts shows at the Playhouse.

Public libraries

The Timaru District Library has branches situated in Timaru, Temuka and Geraldine.

The first Reading Room was opened in the School House, Barnard Street in 1862. It was open daily from 5.00pm – 10.00pm and on Saturdays 10.00am – 8.00pm. English and Colonial Newspapers were provided and a selection of Library Books for the use by members. In 1870 the Mechanics Institute was created by an addition on an existing building and aimed to provide a Library, Reading Room and News Room.

Timaru Public Library was officially opened in 1909 on the present Timaru District Council site. It was a Carnegie library, built with a 3,000 pound grant from Andrew Carnegie of New York – the condition under which the money was given was that the reading rooms should be open to everyone and that the lending Library should be free to ratepayers of the borough. The current library was opened on Sophia Street by the roundabout in 1979. It was designed by Miles, Warren and Mahoney. [40]


Sporting venues

Timaru has a comprehensive range of community sporting facilities designed to international standards for rugby, tennis, yachting, Hardcourt Bike Polo, swimming, netball, motor racing, cricket, golf, hockey, croquet, pistol shooting, trap shooting, bowls and horse racing. Aorangi Park is Timaru's major sporting venue. The Council also operates the CBAY Complex which includes upgrades to the old swimming pool, a restaurant and gym. Timaru is also home to the Timaru International Motor Raceway, which is one of only 4 permanent sealed motor racing circuits in the South island. Horse races are held at the Phar Lap Raceway.


Timaru's main football ground is Sir Basil Arthur Park. It has four senior pitches and six junior pitches. Football is also played at The Caledonian Grounds, Anzac Square, West End Park, Aorangi Park and Marchwiel Park. Clubs include West End AFC, Northern Hearts, Timaru City, Timaru Thistle and Pleasant Point.


Timaru has many golf clubs and well-maintained golf courses, including:

and in close proximity to these:



Inline speed skating

Timaru has New Zealand's largest Inline speed skating teams, South Canterbury, which has national records in several disciplines. The club has held many national tournaments over the years and holds the annual tour of Timaru.


Timaru is on State Highway 1 (SH1), the main road route down the eastern coast of the South Island.

There are regular coach and minibus services to Christchurch, Dunedin, Invercargill, Queenstown and the Mackenzie Country, leaving from outside the Visitor Information Centre, which provides booking facilities and other travel services.

The Main South Line section of the South Island Main Trunk Railway runs through Timaru and is a significant freight corridor. Passenger rail services were discontinued after the cancellation of the Southerner in February 2002. Between 1949 and 1970, Timaru was serviced by the South Island Limited, one of the former New Zealand Railways Department's most prestigious trains.

Richard Pearse Airport is to the north of the town. It is equipped to handle light aircraft and short haul domestic flights, with regular services to Wellington

The "Timaru Link" bus service runs weekdays and the on demand bus service known as "MyWay" run daily. [42]


Timaru's water comes from the Pareora River and Opihi River, and is stored in the Claremont Reservoir. Timaru's water is treated with ozone and is chlorinated. [43]


Further information: List of schools in Canterbury, New Zealand






The Timaru Herald is the local daily newspaper for the district and has been published since the mid nineteenth century. Papers are printed in Ashburton and then distributed throughout the Otago and South Canterbury region. The Herald is owned by Stuff (formerly Fairfax New Zealand). The High Country Herald , also published by Stuff , has a circulation of 43,000 copies. [44]

The region also supports a weekly community newspaper, The Timaru Courier , which has a circulation of over 24,000 copies and is delivered free every Thursday to local households. The Courier is owned by Allied Press of Dunedin. [45]


Timaru has one local FM radio station 100.3FM South Canterbury. There are also many networked FM radio stations, and a volunteer-run Hospital Radio 88.0/107.5 which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2019. [46]

Notable residents




Film and television






Religious leaders



See also

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  17. 1 2 "Statistical area 1 dataset for 2018 Census". Statistics New Zealand. March 2020. Gleniti North (339700), Washdyke (339800), Gleniti South (340000), Glenwood (340100), Marchwiel West (340200), Marchwiel East (340300), Highfield North (340400), Highfield South (340500), Waimataitai-Maori Hill (340600), Fraser Park (340700), Seaview (340800), Watlington (341000), Timaru Central (341100), Timaru East (341200), Parkside (341300) and Kensington (Timaru District) (341400).
  18. 2018 Census place summary: Fraser Park
  19. 2018 Census place summary: Gleniti North
  20. 2018 Census place summary: Gleniti South
  21. 2018 Census place summary: Glenwood
  22. 2018 Census place summary: Highfield North
  23. 2018 Census place summary: Highfield South
  24. 2018 Census place summary: Kensington (Timaru District)
  25. 2018 Census place summary: Marchwiel East
  26. 2018 Census place summary: Marchwiel West
  27. 2018 Census place summary: Parkside
  28. 2018 Census place summary: Seaview
  29. 2018 Census place summary: Timaru Central
  30. 2018 Census place summary: Timaru East
  31. 2018 Census place summary: Waimataitai-Maori Hill
  32. 2018 Census place summary: Washdyke
  33. 2018 Census place summary: Watlington
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Further reading