Darfield: Under the Nor’ West Arch

by Anonymous Author

With splendid views of the Mount Hutt and Torlesse Ranges of the Southern Alps, Darfield, with its growing commercial and residential area, serves the Malvern district’s arable and pastoral farming area.

Darfield is often called ‘the township under the Nor’ West Arch’, a reference to the characteristic Canterbury weather phenomenon. 

It is the gateway to the scenic attractions of the Waimakariri and Rakaia Rivers and the alpine splendour of the Southern Alps and its many commercial and club ski fields.

Darfield had its origin in the railway, which opened to Sheffield in 1874. The township grew with the expansion of the Midland Line railway and as a rural service centre.

From 1874, it was known as White Cliffs Junction, then Horndon Junction from 1876 to 1879 and finally Darfield, to avoid confusion with Hornby Junction. Residential sections were advertised in 1878.

Within the township there are farming suppliers, primary and high schools, numerous shops and cafes, a library and Selwyn District Council service centre, a hospital, volunteer fire brigade, and hotel and motel accommodation.

Darfield’s population growth over recent years can be attributed to a number of factors, including growth in the dairy industry on the Canterbury Plains, more lifestyle blocks and people moving out from Christchurch to the new subdivisions. 

Darfield is the largest township employment area in Malvern, accommodating more than nine times more workers than the next largest town, Hororata. It is also the largest retail and commercial centre, representing 41% of Malvern township based employment in that sector.

The Malvern area takes its name from the foothills at the base of the Torlesse Range, the namesake of which was taken from the Malvern Hills area in the Worcestershire county of England. 

Malvern County Council was amalgamated with the Ellesmere and Paparua County councils to form the Selwyn District Council in October 1989. The 2015 population of Darfield was 2,909 people (1,039 households) with this population projected to grow to a 2031 population of 4,141 people (1,479 households). This represents an estimated increase in population of 1,232 people (440 households), which is the largest recorded in the Malvern area.

To help guide that growth, and to provide high-level planning direction for Darfield and other townships in the area, the Selwyn District Council formulated the Malvern Area Plan.

The Malvern Area Plan was prepared by following the Local Government Act consultative process. Preparation of this document began in February 2015 and involved engagement with Ngai Tahu as the Crown’s Treaty Partner and mana whenua of the district, a number of key stakeholders, council-elected representatives and staff. Technical reports and extensive community consultation also informed this Area Plan. 

According to council this engagement enabled broad-level baseline information to be documented and relevant issues and local community needs to be identified. These matters collectively informed and shaped preliminary findings contained within the draft Area Plan, published for consultation in May 2016.

Further community consultation and ongoing stakeholder engagement took place through May and June of 2016 to review and refine the draft Area Plan.

A public meeting to consider formal comments on the draft plan took place in early July 2016 and the plan was formally adopted by council in September 2016.

This Area Plan concluded there was sufficient capacity within the township to accommodate growth through to 2031 without the need for council to proactively zone additional land through the District Plan Review. However it didn’t preclude any additional greenfield land from being considered for zoning through privately-initiated plan change requests under the RMA.

While no new areas for residential, business or industrial purposes have been identified as being necessary to be zoned in Darfield for the growth, the plan did identify a number of issues that needed to be addressed to facilitate additional growth.

Those included a current reliance on individual on-site septic tanks is being identified as a constraint to providing more intensive mixed-density development.

Council has just begun a formal process to look into the development of a reticulated wastewater system for the township.