The County Reserves Book

Reserves have played an important part in the history of Ashburton District and were some of the first areas defined for use in early surveys. Today they are governed through the Reserves Act 1977 and continue to play an important part in land use in the Ashburton District.

The establishment and management of reserves has been closely related to the early Road Boards.

One of the earliest newspaper reports in the Ashburton Guardian is dated October 16, 1879, shortly after the newspaper was founded. The article lamented and highlighted the physical barrenness of the district between Ashburton and Rakaia.

1. Front cover of the Reserves book.jpg

Reserves had varied purposes. Some were set up to make the landscape look nicer, for recreation, to grow trees for profit, or to provide much-debated income from leasing. Other reserves were set aside for things like the all-important shingle pit for gravel, for hospitals, railways, police and educational purposes. Allocating reserves meant setting land aside for specific purpose useful to the community or government.

An amazing leather-bound book is safely kept in the archives at the Ashburton Museum, as part of the Ashburton District Council Archives. This book contains a wealth of information on the development and location of reserves in the Ashburton District that were governed by the Ashburton County Council.

It shows the names of occupiers, their acreages, when a reserve was leased or the lease surrendered, when it was planted, the terms of lease and lease expiry dates.

2. Reserve 1782, showing the areas planted.jpg

Along with this information are original hand drafted and hand coloured maps of all reserve locations, plus information about what was originally planted in the reserves, if anything, going back to the early 1880s. The book stops at page 237.

The Reserves book is complemented by County Council minutes, which also often record changes in ownership and use of reserve land but it is the reserves book that has the maps.

On each map a key indicates the acreage, roods and perches for each reserve, using he measurements of the day. A rood is a quarter acre, 40 square perches or 0.1012 hectares. You will just have to research for yourself the difference between poles, perches, rods and roods.

The Reserves book also records what species were first planted and where, and often shows other hand-written tidbits of information, such as the date of an original planting or when a reserve may have been burnt, replanted or reallocated.

3. Record of the reserves between Brothers Road.png

Private Reserve 1782

An example is Private Reserve 1782. This became Reserve 38965 and stretched along the Western side of State Highway 1, near the old Windermere railway station. Gum trees were first grown here in 1881 and pine trees were first planted in 1890 (3,600 of them) and again in 1899.

This particular reserve had 246 acres (99.5 hectares) and was occupied by four different people, eventually being sold in 1955, having first been occupied in 1898.

There were 5,000 pine trees planted on this reserve in 1949 at a cost of £60. It was noted in the book that not all were planted out because “rabbits were very numerous” in the area.

4. Archivist Kathleen Stringer.jpg

The early planting of gum trees was apparently also noted as not being successful as the plants were very susceptible to frost.

Entries in the Reserve book stretch from the early 1890s to 1988. This book is a wonderful example of the archival records held in your museum from the collection of Ashburton District Council.


By Glenn Vallender



  1. Front cover of the Reserves book. Photo Anita Badger.
  2. Reserve 1782, showing the areas planted in pine trees in 1890, with later annotations about other trees and rabbits. Photo Anita Badger.
  3. Record of the reserves between Brothers Road, Quarry Road and Anama-Valetta Road showing Reserve numbers and the acreage.
  4. Archivist Kathleen Stringer, with just a few of the Ashburton District Council’s records related to property in the district.













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