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Sumner, New Zealand

Sumner is a coastal seaside village-like suburb of Christchurch, New Zealand. Surveyed and Named in 1849 in honour of John Bird Sumner, the then newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and president of the Canterbury Association[?]. Originally a separate borough, it was amalgamated with the city of Christchurch as communications improved and the economies of scale made small town borroughs uneconomic to operate.


Sumner is nestled in a coastal valley separated from the adjacent city suburbs by rugged volcanic hill ridges that end in cliffs that descend to the sea shore in places. Sumner bay is the first bay on the northern side of Banks peninsula and faces Pegasus bay[?] and the Pacific ocean.

Because of its ocean exposure, a high surf can form in some swell conditions. The beach is gently sloping, with fine grey sand. It is a popular surf beach for these reasons.

Sand dunes have filled the river valley behind the beach. This has made housing construction relatively easy, although flooding at the head of the valley has been a problem in the past due to the reverse slope caused by the sand dunes filling the front of the valley. This has been addressed by a flood drain.

The rocky volcanic outcrop of Cave Rock dominates the beach. There are other rocky outcrops in the area and the volcanic nature of the geology is readily apparent from several of the exposed cliffs around the valley.

A sea wall and wide esplanade have been built the length of the beach to prevent costal erosion.

The outlet of the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote[?] rivers at the western end of the beach, near another large volcanic outcrop known as Shag Rock, forms the Sumner bar off shore of Cave Rock. The Sumner bar presents a major hazard to shipping, while the fast currents, strong rips and undertows in the area can be a danger to swimmers.


Surveyed in 1849 by Captain Thomas and settled in late 1849 or early 1850 by work crews building the road to Port Cooper, now Lyttelton[?], Sumner is thus one of the oldest european settlements in the Christchurch area.

Sumner School founded in 1876.

Sumner Life Boat Institute

Because of the hazard posed by the Sumner Bar, Sumner has had a lifeboat of some kind almost since its settlement. There is no record of a formal or even informal lifeboat being available prior to the appointment of a pilot in September 1864. However, it is likely that small open rowing boats were available in the bay from the early 1850s.

The Sumner Life Boat Institute has operated a formal life boat or similar rescue craft in the bay since 1898. The traditional name of Rescue have been applied to many of the life boats.

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