Main Births etc
Ōtautahi (Māori)
—  Metropolitan Area  —
Clockwise from top: Christchurch skyline with Southern Alps in background, aerial view of Hagley Park, cherry blossom trees in Hagley Park, New Brighton and the Port Hills, a Christchurch tram, the Peacock Fountain in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and ChristChurch Cathedral in Cathedral Square
Nickname(s): The Garden City

Christchurch is located in New Zealand
Coordinates: 43°31′48″S 172°37′13″E / -43.53, 172.62028Coordinates: 43°31′48″S 172°37′13″E / -43.53, 172.62028
Country  New Zealand
Island South Island
Region Canterbury
Territorial authority Christchurch City
Settled by the UK 1848
 • Mayor Lianne Dalziel
 • Territorial 1,426 km2 (551 sq mi)
 • Urban 452 km2 (175 sq mi)
Highest elevation 920 m (3,020 ft)
Lowest elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Population (June 2012 estimate)[1]
 • Territorial 363,200
 • Density 250/km2 (660/sq mi)
 • Urban 375,900
 • Urban density 830/km2 (2,200/sq mi)
Time zone NZST (UTC+12)
 • Summer (DST) NZDT (UTC+13)
Area code(s) 03
Local iwi Ngāi Tahu, Ngāti Mamoe

High, Manchester and Lichfield Streets in Christchurch, 1923

Christchurch ( /ˈkrsɜr/; Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the country's third-most populous urban area. It lies one third of the way down the South Island's east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula which itself, since 2006, lies within the formal limits of Christchurch. The population of Christchurch City at the 5 March 2013 census was 341,469.[2]

The city was named by the Canterbury Association, which settled the surrounding province of Canterbury. The name of Christchurch was agreed on at the first meeting of the association on 27 March 1848. It was suggested by John Robert Godley, who had attended Christ Church, Oxford. Some early writers called the town Christ Church, but it was recorded as Christchurch in the minutes of the management committee of the association.[3] Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.

The river that flows through the centre of the city (its banks now largely forming an urban park) was named Avon at the request of the pioneering Deans brothers to commemorate the Scottish Avon, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near what was their grandfathers' farm and flows into the Clyde.[3]

The usual Māori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi ("the place of Tautahi"). This was originally the name of a specific site by the Avon River near present-day Kilmore Street and the Christchurch Central Fire Station. The site was a seasonal dwelling of Ngāi Tahu chief Te Potiki Tautahi, whose main home was Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. The Ōtautahi name was adopted in the 1930s. Prior to that the Ngāi Tahu generally referred to the Christchurch area as Karaitiana,[4] a transliteration of the English word Christian. The city's name is often abbreviated by New Zealanders to Chch.[5][6] In New Zealand Sign Language, the city's name is the fingerspelled letter C (made by forming the hand into a C shape) signed twice, with the second to the right of the first, while mouthing "Christchurch".[7]


ChristChurch Cathedral before its partial collapse in the 2011 earthquakes


Archeological evidence found in a cave at Redcliffs in 1876 has indicated that the Christchurch area was first settled by moa-hunting tribes about 1250 CE. These first inhabitants were thought to have been followed by the Waitaha tribe, who are said to have migrated from the East coast of the North Island in the 16th century. Following tribal warfare, the Waitaha (made of three peoples) were dispossessed by the Ngati Mamoe tribe. They were in turn subjugated by the Ngāi Tahu tribe, who remained in control until the arrival of European settlers. Following the purchase of land at Putaringamotu (modern Riccarton) by the Weller brothers, whalers of Otago and Sydney, a party of European settlers led by Herriott and McGillivray established themselves in what is now Christchurch, early in 1840. Their abandoned holdings were taken over by the Deans brothers[8] in 1843 who stayed. The First Four Ships were chartered by the Canterbury Association and brought the first 792 of the Canterbury Pilgrims to Lyttelton Harbour. These sailing vessels were the Randolph, Charlotte Jane, Sir George Seymour, and Cressy. The Charlotte Jane was the first to arrive on 16 December 1850. The Canterbury Pilgrims had aspirations of building a city around a cathedral and college, on the model of Christ Church in Oxford.[9]

The name "Christ Church" was decided prior to the ships' arrival, at the Association's first meeting, on 27 March 1848. The exact basis for the name is not known. It has been suggested that it is named for Christchurch, in Dorset, England; for Canterbury Cathedral; or in honour of Christ Church, Oxford. The last explanation is the one generally accepted.[10]

Captain Joseph Thomas, the Canterbury Association's Chief Surveyor, surveyed the surrounding area. By December 1849 he had commissioned the construction of a road from Port Cooper, later Lyttelton, to Christchurch via Sumner.[11] However this proved more difficult than expected and road construction was stopped while a steep foot and pack horse track was constructed over the hill between the port and the Heathcote valley, where access to the site of the proposed settlement could be gained. This track became known as the Bridle Path, because the path was so steep that pack horses needed to be led by the bridle.[12] Goods that were too heavy or bulky to be transported by pack horse over the Bridle Path were shipped by small sailing vessels some eight miles (13 km) by water around the coast and up the estuary to Ferrymead. New Zealand's first public railway line, the Ferrymead railway, opened from Ferrymead to Christchurch in 1863. Due to the difficulties in travelling over the Port Hills and the dangers associated with shipping navigating the Sumner bar, a railway tunnel was bored through the Port Hills to Lyttelton, opening in 1867.[13]

Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, the first in New Zealand. Many of the city's Gothic Revival buildings by architect Benjamin Mountfort date from this period. Christchurch was the seat of provincial administration for the Province of Canterbury, which was abolished in 1876. In 1947, New Zealand's worst fire disaster occurred at Ballantyne's Department Store in the inner city, with 41 people killed in a blaze which razed the rambling collection of buildings.[14] The Lyttelton road tunnel between Lyttelton and Christchurch was opened in 1964.[15] Christchurch hosted the 1974 British Commonwealth Games.

2010–2012 earthquakes[]

The collapsed Pyne Gould Building. Thirty of the building's two hundred workers were trapped within the building following the February earthquake.[16]

On Saturday 4 September 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Christchurch and the central Canterbury region at 4:35 am. Located near Darfield, west of the city at a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), it caused widespread damage to the city and minor injuries, but no direct fatalities.[17][18][19]

Nearly six months later on Tuesday 22 February 2011, a second earthquake measuring magnitude 6.3 struck the city at 12:51 pm. It was located closer to the city, near Lyttelton at a depth of 5 km (3 mi).[20] Although lower on the moment magnitude scale than the previous earthquake, the intensity and violence of the ground shaking was measured to be MM IX, among the strongest ever recorded globally in an urban area[21] and in total 185 people were killed[22][23] with nationals from more than 20 countries among the victims.[24] ChristChurch Cathedral lost its spire[25][26] and widespread damage was caused across Christchurch to buildings and infrastructure already weakened by 4 September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, and the total cost to insurers of rebuilding has been estimated at NZ$20–30 billion.[27][28]

On 13 June 2011 Christchurch was again rocked by two more large aftershocks. A 5.6 at only 9 km (6 mi) deep hit at 1:00 pm in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. This was followed by another 6.3 at only 6 km (4 mi) deep at 2:20 pm again in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. This resulted in more liquefaction and building damage, but no more lives were lost.[29] There were further earthquakes on 23 December 2011; the first, of magnitude 5.8 according to the US Geological Survey, 26 km (16 mi) north-east of the city at a depth of 4.7 km (2.9 mi), at 13:58, followed by several aftershocks and another earthquake of magnitude 6.0 and similar location 80 minutes later, with more aftershocks expected.[30][31] St John Ambulance reported after the two quakes that there were minor injuries at homes and businesses but no serious injuries and few indications of building collapses at the time.[32] Christchurch airport was briefly closed. There were power and water outages at New Brighton and severe damage to the Parklands region, including roads and footpaths.

Christchurch was again rattled awake on 2 January 2012; the first; a magnitude 5.1 struck at 01:27 followed five minutes later by a magnitude 4.2 aftershock; a second larger earthquake struck at 05:45 with a magnitude of 5.5. This caused power outages to the eastern suburbs of Parklands, New Brighton, Shirley, Dallington, Burwood, Spencerville and Richmond; this affected around 10,000 homes.[33]

4,423 earthquakes were recorded in the Canterbury region above a magnitude 3.0, from 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2012.[34]

A historic water wheel and cherry blossom trees on a small island at the corner of Oxford Terrance and Hereford Street in the city centre.

Over 1000 buildings in the CBD, which is about a third of the total buildings within the four avenues, were demolished following the earthquakes. A small number of buildings are still awaiting demolition, undergoing demolition or awaiting decisions regarding their future. [3] For an overview of the city's buildings since the earthquakes see: List of tallest buildings in Christchurch.

Post-earthquake recovery[]

The city has been experiencing rapid growth following the earthquakes, with the central city rebuild, which is outlined in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, starting to ramp up, and massive growth in the residential sector, with around 50,000 new houses expected to be constructed in the Greater Christchurch area by 2028, as outlined in the Land Use Recovery Plan (LURP).

Gateway to the Antarctic[]

Christchurch has a history of involvement in Antarctic exploration–both Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton used the port of Lyttelton as a departure point for expeditions, and in the central city there is a statue of Scott sculpted by his widow, Kathleen Scott. Within the city, the Canterbury Museum preserves and exhibits many historic artefacts and stories of Antarctic exploration. Christchurch International Airport serves as the major base for the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic programs.

The International Antarctic Centre provides both base facilities and a museum and visitor centre focused upon current Antarctic activities. The United States Navy and latterly the United States Air National Guard, augmented by the New Zealand and Australian air forces, use Christchurch Airport as take-off for the main supply route to McMurdo and Scott Bases in Antarctica. The Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) in Christchurch, had more than 140,000 pieces of extreme cold weather (ECW) gear for issue to nearly 2,000 U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) participants in the 2007–08 season.[35]


Satellite image showing Christchurch and surrounding areas.

View of the Christchurch region from the International Space Station.

Christchurch lies in Canterbury, near the centre of the east coast of the South Island, east of the Canterbury Plains. It is located near the southern end of Pegasus Bay, and is bounded to the east by the Pacific Ocean coast and the estuary of the Avon and Heathcote Rivers. To the south and south-east the urban portion of the city is limited by the volcanic slopes of the Port Hills separating it from Banks Peninsula. In 2006, Banks Peninsula was incorporated into the city, in effect tripling the city's land area[36] while adding only about 8,000 people to the city's population. To the north the city is bounded by the braided Waimakariri River.

Christchurch is one of only eight pairs of cities in the world that has a near-exact antipodal city. Half of these antipodal pairs are in New Zealand and Spain/Morocco–with A Coruña, Spain as Christchurch's antipode.

Christchurch is one of a group of only four cities in the world to have been carefully planned following the same layout of a central city square, four complementing city squares surrounding it and a parklands area that embrace the city centre. The first city built with this pattern was Philadelphia. Later came Savannah and Adelaide, before Christchurch. As such, Christchurch holds an important legacy and a strong platform for future development.

Christchurch has one of the highest-quality water supplies in the world, with its water rated among the purest and cleanest in the world.[37] Untreated, naturally filtered water is sourced, via more than 50 pumping stations surrounding the city, from aquifers emanating from the foothills of the Southern Alps.[38]

Central City[]

July snowfall on Cobham Intermediate School grounds

At the city's centre is Cathedral Square, surrounding the now-earthquake-damaged – landmark Anglican cathedral, Christ Church. The area around this square and within the 'four avenues' of Christchurch (Bealey Avenue, Fitzgerald Avenue, Moorhouse Avenue and Deans Avenue[39]) is considered to be the central business district (CBD) of the city. The central city also has a number of residential areas, including Inner City East, Inner City West, Avon Loop, Moa Neighbourhood and Victoria, but many of the residential buildings in the CBD were demolished following the February 2011 Earthquakes. Cathedral Square is located at the crossing of two major central streets, Colombo Street and Worcester Street.

Cathedral Square, the heart of the city, hosted attractions such as (until the February 2011 Earthquake)[40]) the Wizard of New Zealand, Ian Brackenbury Channell, and evangelist Ray Comfort; regular market days; free standing food and coffee carts; an aquarium, pubs and restaurants and the city's chief tourist information centre. it is expected that activities in Cathedral Square will increase as the rebuild progresses.

The central city also includes the pedestrianised sections of Cashel and High streets commonly known pre-earthquakes as 'City Mall'. Refurbished in 2008/09 the mall featured especially designed seating, flower and garden boxes, more trees, paving, and an extension to the central city tram route. The tram route extension was nearly complete when the February 2011 Earthquake struck. Following the earthquakes, most buildings in Cashel Mall were demolished. A shopping area called Re:START Mall opened on Cashel Street adjacent to Ballantyne's Department Store in October 2011. The Re:START Mall is made of colourful shipping containers that have been converted to house retail stores. The Bridge of Remembrance commemorating war dead stands at the western end of the mall, and is being repaired and earthquake strengthened, with hopes of repairs being partially completed to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I in August 2014 and being fully completed in time to commemorate ANZAC Day 2015. [4]

The Cultural Precinct[41] provided a backdrop to a vibrant scene of ever-changing arts, cultural, and heritage attractions within an area of less than one square kilometre. The Arts Centre, the Canterbury Museum and the Art Gallery are located in the Cultural Precinct. The majority of the activities were free and a printable map was provided. There areas are slowly being reopened follow earthquake repair and strengthening work.

In 2010, the Christchurch City Council released "A City For People Action Plan", a programme of work through to 2022 to improve public spaces within the central city to entice more inner city residents and visitors. A primary action was to reduce the impact of motorised private vehicles and increase the comfort of pedestrians and cyclists. The plan was based on a report prepared for the council by renowned Danish design firm Gehl Architects. Since the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake Wellington architect Ian Athfield has been selected to re-plan, although many varied suggestions have been promoted for rebuilding the central city[42][43][44][45]

The Central City, which was fully closed off following the 22 February Earthquake, opened in stages and was fully reopened in June 2013. There are still some streets closed off due to earthquake damage, infrastructure repair work, and damaged buildings.[5]

Inner suburbs[]

(clockwise, starting north of the city centre)

  • Mairehau
  • Shirley
  • Dallington
  • Richmond
  • Avonside
  • Linwood
  • Phillipstown
  • Woolston
  • Opawa
  • Waltham
  • St Martins
  • Beckenham
  • Sydenham
  • Somerfield
  • Spreydon
  • Addington
  • Riccarton
  • Ilam
  • Upper Riccarton
  • Burnside
  • Fendalton
  • Bryndwr
  • Strowan
  • Merivale
  • Papanui
  • St Albans
  • Edgeware

Outer suburbs[]

(clockwise, starting north of the city centre)

  • Marshland
  • Bottle Lake
  • Burwood
  • Parklands
  • Prestons
  • Highfield
  • Waimairi Beach
  • Queenspark
  • Avondale
  • North New Brighton
  • New Brighton
  • Bexley (now largely defunct)
  • Aranui
  • Wainoni
  • South Brighton
  • Southshore
  • Bromley
  • Mt Pleasant
  • Redcliffs
  • Clifton
  • Richmond Hill
  • Sumner
  • Scarborough Hill
  • Ferrymead
  • Heathcote Valley
  • Hillsborough
  • Murray Aynsley
  • Huntsbury
  • Bowenvale
  • Cashmere
  • Westmorland
  • Hoon Hay
  • Hillmorton
  • Aidanfield
  • Halswell
  • Oaklands
  • Westlake
  • Wigram
  • Middleton
  • Sockburn
  • Hornby
  • Hei Hei
  • Broomfeild
  • Islington
  • Yaldhurst
  • Russley
  • Hyde Park
  • Avonhead
  • Harewood
  • Bishopdale
  • Northcote
  • Casebrook
  • Redwood
  • Regents Park
  • Northwood
  • Groynes Park
  • Belfast
  • Spencerville
  • Brooklands

Satellite towns[]

  • Lyttelton
  • Governors Bay
  • Diamond Harbour
  • Kennedys Bush
  • Tai Tapu
  • Little River
  • Lincoln
  • Prebbleton
  • Rolleston
  • Templeton
  • West Melton
  • Rangiora
  • Woodend
  • Waikuku
  • Pegasus Town
  • Kaiapoi
  • Kainga
  • Pines Beach
  • Akaroa
  • Motukarara


Climate chart for Christchurch
temperatures in °Cprecipitation totals in mm

Christchurch has a temperate climate with moderate rainfall. It has mean daily maximum air temperatures of 22.5 °C (72 °F) in January and 11.3 °C (52 °F) in July.[46] Under the Köppen climate classification, Christchurch has an oceanic climate (Cfb). The summer climate is mild and is often moderated by a sea breeze from the Northeast, but a record temperature of 41.6 °C (107 °F) was reached in February 1973. A notable feature of the weather is the nor'wester, a hot föhn wind that occasionally reaches storm force, causing widespread minor damage to property.[47] Christchurch experiences the urban heat island phenomenon, similar to cities such as Tokyo and New York City, making temperatures feel warmer than they actually are within the city.[48]

In winter it is common for the temperature to fall below 0 °C (32 °F) at night. There are on average 99 days of ground frost per year.[49] Snowfalls occur on average three times per year, although some years no snowfall is recorded.[50] The coldest temperature recorded was −7.1 °C (19 °F) on 18 July 1945.[50]

On cold winter nights, the surrounding hills, clear skies, and frosty calm conditions often combine to form a stable inversion layer above the city that traps vehicle exhausts and smoke from domestic fires to cause smog. While not as bad as smog in Los Angeles or Mexico City, Christchurch smog has often exceeded World Health Organisation recommendations for air pollution.[51] To limit air pollution, the regional council banned the use of open fires in the city in 2006, and in 2008, prohibited the use of woodburners more than 15 years old, while making funding available to upgrade domestic home heating systems.[52]


Boatsheds on the Avon River

The area administered by the Christchurch City Council has a population of 363,200 (June 2012 estimate),[1] making it the second-largest in New Zealand, and the largest city in the South Island.

The Christchurch Urban area at 375,800 is the third-largest in the country by population, after Auckland and Wellington.

Historical Populations
Census Pop. ±%
1981 281,721 [54] -
1986 288,948 [54] 2.6%increase
1991 296,061 [54] 2.5%increase
1996 316,611 [54] 6.9%increase
2001 323,956 [54] 2.3%increase
2006 348,435 [54] 7.6%increase
2013 341,469 [55] -2.0%decrease


The following table shows the ethnic profile of Christchurch's population, as recorded in the 2001 and 2006 New Zealand Census. The percentages add up to more than 100%, as some people counted themselves as belonging to more than one ethnic group. Figures for 2006 refer to just Christchurch City, not the whole urban area. The substantial percentage drop in the numbers of 'Europeans' was mainly caused by the increasing numbers of people from this group choosing to define themselves as 'New Zealanders'–even though this was not one of the groups listed on the census form.

Approximately 62% of the South Island's Pacific Islander community reside in Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury Province, equalling approximately 11,500 people.[56] People of Samoan descent comprise about half the Pacific Islander population.[56] There are also smaller communities of Cook Islanders, Fijians, Niueans, Tokelauans and Tongans residing in the city.[56]

Ethnic Group 2001 census 2006 census
Percentage People[57] National average Percent People[58] National average
European 89.8 291,594 75.4 255,366 67.6
'New Zealander' n/a n/a 12.9 43,671 11.1
Asian 5.5 17,703 7.9 26,631 9.2
Māori 7.2 23,421 7.6 25,725 14.7
Pacific Island 2.4 7,713 2.8 9,465 6.9
Middle East/Latin America/Africa n/a n/a 0.8 2,862 0.9
Others 0.6 2,073 <0.1 114 <0.1
Total giving their ethnicity 324,666 (individuals) 338,748 (individuals)

The 2006 Census also provides information about the multilinguality of the region. Of those people in Christchurch City who provided data, 86% spoke one language only, 12% spoke two, and 2% could converse in three or more languages.[58]


The agricultural industry has always been the economic core of Christchurch. The city has long had industry based on the surrounding farming country. PGG Wrightson, New Zealand's leading agribusiness, is based in Christchurch. Its local roots go back to Pyne Gould Guinness, an old stock and station agency serving the South Island. That firm helped take deer farming techniques abroad. PGG Wrightson's overseas diversification includes dairy farming in Uruguay. Other agribusinesses in Christchurch have included malting, seed development and dressing, wool and meat processing, and small biotechnology operations using by-products from meat works. Dairying has grown strongly in the surrounding areas with high world prices for milk products and the use of irrigation to lift grass growth on dry land. With its higher labour use this has helped stop declines in rural population. Many cropping and sheep farms have been converted to dairying. Conversions have been by agribusiness companies as well as by farmers, many of whom have moved south from North Island dairying strongholds such as Taranaki and the Waikato.

Cropping has always been important in the surrounding countryside. Wheat and barley and various strains of clover and other grasses for seed exporting have been the main crops. These have all created processing businesses in Christchurch. In recent years, regional agriculture has diversified, with a thriving wine industry springing up at Waipara, and beginnings of new horticulture industries such as olive production and processing. Deer farming has led to new processing using antlers for Asian medicine and aphrodisiacs. The high quality local wine in particular has increased the appeal of Canterbury and Christchurch to tourists.

In earlier years, Christchurch was one of the two heavy-engineering centres of New Zealand, with firms such as Anderson's making steel work for bridges, tunnels, and hydro-electric dams in the early days of infrastructure work. Now manufacturing is mainly of light products and the key market is Australia, with firms such as those pioneered by the Stewart family among the larger employers. Before clothing manufacture largely moved to Asia, Christchurch was the centre of the New Zealand clothing industry, with firms such as LWR Industries. The firms that remain mostly design and market, and manufacture in Asia. The city also had five footwear manufacturers, but these have been replaced by imports. In the last few decades, technology-based industries have sprung up in Christchurch. Angus Tait founded Tait Electronics, a mobile-radio manufacturer, and other firms spun off from this, such as Dennis Chapman's Swichtec. Tait protégés include Chapman. In software, Gil Simpson founded LINC, which became Jade. However, there have been spin-offs from the electrical department of the University of Canterbury engineering school. These included Pulse Data, which became Human Ware (making reading devices and computers for blind people and those with limited vision) and CES Communications (encryption). The Pulse Data founders had moved from the Canterbury University engineering school to work for Wormald Inc. when they set up Pulse Data through a management buyout of their division.

In recent times, the University of Canterbury engineering school and computer science department play an important role in supplying staff and research for the technology industries, and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology provides a flow of trained technicians and engineers. Similarly, nearby Lincoln University has played an important role in Christchurch agribusiness. Tourism is also a significant factor of the local economy. The close proximity of the ski fields and other attractions of the Southern Alps, and hotels, a casino, and an airport that meet international standards make Christchurch a stopover destination for many tourists. The city is popular with Japanese tourists,[59] with signage around Cathedral Square in Japanese.


The Canterbury Provincial Council Building

The coat of arms of the City of Christchurch, New Zealand

Christchurch's local government is a democracy with various elements including:

  • Christchurch City Council, comprising the Mayor of Christchurch, and 13 councillors elected in seven wards: two each from Shirley-Papanui, Burwood-Pegasus, Hagley-Ferrymead, Spreydon-Heathcote, Riccarton-Wigram and Fendalton-Waimari, and one from Banks Peninusla.
  • Community boards (six in the pre-amalgamation city area), each covering one ward, with five members each plus the two ward councillors. The Banks Peninsula ward has two community boards with five members each, plus the ward councillor, who is also a member of each board.
  • District councils in surrounding areas: Selwyn, and Waimakariri. The Banks Peninsula district council was amalgamated into Christchurch City in March 2006 after a vote by the Banks Peninsula residents to disestablish in November 2005.
  • Canterbury Regional Council, known as 'Environment Canterbury', including four Christchurch constituencies with two members from each constituency.[60]
  • District Health Board (Canterbury), with five members for Christchurch.[61]

In 1993, Christchurch was selected as the "Best Run City in the World", also known as the 'Carl Bertelsmann Prize: Local Government', by the Bertelsmann Foundation of Germany. Especially noted was the increased efficiency of communal services in competition with private enterprises. Christchurch shared the award honour with Phoenix, Arizona, USA.[62]

Some of the local governments in Canterbury and the New Zealand Transport Agency have created the Greater Christchurch Urban Development Strategy to facilitate future urban planning.[63]


Students playing cricket at Christchurch Boys' High School

Ivey Hall at Lincoln University

The University of Canterbury is a tertiary education provider for Christchurch

Secondary schools[]

Christchurch is the location of Burnside High School, the fourth largest school in New Zealand with 2,506 pupils.[64] Cashmere High School at Rose Street is another large co-educational secondary school. In recent years, Papanui High School has undergone rapid growth to reach a similar size. Riccarton High School was one of the first state schools in the country to adopt a strong values base – the Riccarton Way. There are several single-sex schools; Shirley Boys' High School and Christchurch Boys' High School are the two state boys' high schools, Avonside Girls' High School and Christchurch Girls' High School are the state girls' high schools in Christchurch.

Christchurch is also well known for several very traditional schools of the English public school type, such as St Thomas of Canterbury College, St Margaret's College, Christ's College, St Bede's College, Marian College, Christchurch, St Andrew's College, Villa Maria College and Rangi Ruru Girls' School, but also has several less conventional schools such as Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti and Hagley Community College.

Tertiary institutions[]

A number of tertiary education institutions have campuses in Christchurch, or in the surrounding areas.

  • University of Canterbury
  • Lincoln University
  • Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
  • University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences


Christchurch is served by Christchurch International Airport and by buses (local and long-distance) and trains. The local bus service, known as Metro,[65] is provided by Environment Canterbury. The car, however, remains the dominant form of transport in the city, as with the rest of New Zealand

Christchurch has an extensive bus network with bus routes serving most areas of the city and satellite towns. Nearly all bus routes travelled through the central city Bus Exchange before the earthquake but due to reduced passenger numbers since the earthquakes, especially in the central city, the bus network was reorganised to direct more localised services to 'hubs', such as major shopping centers, where they connect to the central station via core bus routes. Before the 2011 earthquakes, in addition to normal bus services, Christchurch also had a pioneering zero-fare hybrid bus service, the Shuttle, in the inner city. The service has been suspended following the earthquakes and it is unclear whether it will resume again in the future.[6]

Historically, Christchurch has been known as New Zealand's cycling city[66] and currently still attracts about 7% of commuters cycling. The central city has very flat terrain and the Christchurch City Council has established a network of cycle lanes and paths, such as the Railway Cycleway. Post-quake public consultation on rebuilding the city expressed a strong desire for a more sustainable transport system, particularly greater use of cycling again, and this has been reflected in the Council's strategic transport plan.[67]

Christchurch Brill Tram No 178 on the heritage tramway in inner-city Christchurch.

The Christchurch City Council has committed NZ$68.5 million to build a network of modern cycleways over the next five years.[7]

There is a functioning Christchurch tramway system in Christchurch, but as a tourist attraction; its loop is restricted to a circuit of the central city. The trams were originally introduced in 1905 as a form of public transport, and ceased operating in 1954,[68] but returned to the inner city (as a tourist attraction) in 1995. However, following the February 2011 Earthquake, the system was damaged and within the cordoned off 'Red Zone' of the central city. The tramway reopened in November 2013 on a limited route, with plans to extend the tram route in 2014, first to reopen the complete pre-earthquake circuit, and then to open the extension traveling through the Re:Start Mall and High Street, which was being constructed when the 2011 Earthquake struck.

Rail services, both long-distance and commuter, used to focus on the former railway station on Moorhouse avenue. Commuter trains were progressively cancelled in the 1960s and 1970s. The last such service, between Christchurch and Rangiora, ceased in 1976. After the reduction in services a new Christchurch railway station was established at Addington Junction. The Main North Line railway travels northwards via Kaikoura to Picton and is served by the TranzCoastal passenger train, while the Main South Line heads to Invercargill via Dunedin and was used by the Southerner until its cancellation in 2002. The most famous train to depart Christchurch is the TranzAlpine, which travels along the Main South Line to Rolleston and then turns onto the Midland Line, passes through the Southern Alps via the Otira Tunnel, and terminates in Greymouth on the West Coast. This trip is often regarded as one of the ten great train journeys in the world for the amazing scenery through which it passes. The TranzAlpine service is primarily a tourist service and carries no significant commuter traffic.

Vehicles, as they do throughout New Zealand and most Commonwealth Nations, are driven on the left side of the road.

Culture and entertainment[]

The Christchurch Art Gallery

Peacock Fountain in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament

Christchurch is a distinctly English city, however it contains various European elements, with strong Gothic Revival architecture. As early settlers of New Zealand, Māori culture is also prevalent in the city. It features many public open spaces and parks, river beds and cafes and restaurants situated in the city centre and surrounding suburbs.

  • Garden and parks
  • Canterbury Museum
  • Ferrymead Heritage Park
  • Orana Wildlife Park
  • Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
  • Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum
  • Southern Encounter Aquarium and Kiwi House closed
  • International Antarctic Centre
  • Christ Church (the Anglican cathedral), the centre of the Church of England settlement was built between 1864 and 1910. closed and damaged
  • The Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, consecrated in 1905, is widely considered to be the finest renaissance-style building in Australasia. closed and damaged
  • Christchurch Art Gallery (A new gallery opened 2003 to replace the 1930 Robert McDougall Art Gallery situated in the Botanic Gardens).
  • The Christchurch Arts Centre, formerly Canterbury College and the site of "Ernest Rutherford's Den". closed and damaged
  • Canterbury Provincial Council Buildings, 1858–1876. closed and damaged
  • The Lyttelton Timeball Station. Gone
  • The New Brighton pier.
  • Heathcote (Christchurch) Gondola
  • Punting on the river Avon
  • The Summit Road along the top of the Port Hills and Godley Head Road provides numerous spectacular views of the area and features the buildings created as wayside rests, the Sign of the Takahe (now a function centre) and Sign of the Kiwi. The Mt Pleasant Trig offers 360° views from Lyttelton Harbour back over the hills to the southern alps and the city, and out over Pegasus Bay.
  • Walkways including Victoria Park, the Bridle Path and Whitewash Head, a bird sanctuary.
  • Mountain biking on the Port Hills and Bottle Lake Forest. Christchurch Mountainbiking
  • There is a large nesting colony of Spotted Shags immediately south of Christchurch.


While historically most cinemas were grouped around Cathedral Square,[69] only two cinemas remain there. The Regent complex was rebuilt as 'Regent on Worcester' in 1996. In 2009 Metro Cinemas opened in Worcester Street with three screens.

Only one of the first generation of suburban cinemas, the Hollywood in Sumner, remains open.[70] The largest multiplexes were the Hoyts 8 in the old railway station on Moorhouse Avenue (now demolished) and Reading Cinemas (also eight screens) in the Palms shopping centre in Shirley. Hoyts in Riccarton opened in 2005[71] with one of its screens for a time holding the record for the largest in New Zealand.

The Rialto Cinemas on Moorhouse avenue specialised in international films and art house productions. The Rialto also hosted the majority of the city's various film festivals and was home to the local film society. The Rialto was closed following the February 2011 earthquake.

The Christchurch Arts Centre includes two art house cinemas, Cloisters and The Academy, screening a wide selection of contemporary, classic and foreign language films.

The Canterbury Film Society is active in the city.[72]

Parks and nature[]

Black swans and model yachts on Victoria Lake in Hagley Park and an aerial view of the park, located in the central city.

The large number of public parks and well-developed residential gardens with many trees has given Christchurch the name of The Garden City.[73] Hagley Park and the 30-hectare (75 acre) Christchurch Botanic Gardens, founded in 1863, are in the central city, with Hagley Park being a site for sports such as golf, cricket, netball, and rugby, and for open air concerts by local bands and orchestras. To the north of the city is the Willowbank wildlife park. Travis Wetland, an ecological restoration programme to create a wetland, is to the east of the city centre in the suburb of Burwood.


Christchurch has its own regional television station Canterbury Television. CTV was first formed in 1991 and still today reflects the Canterbury community through locally made programmes. It airs both local, national and international content, namely DW-TV and Aljazeera World.

VTV, a Korean TV channel airs in Christchurch (also Auckland). It offers English content about Korea, from arirang World, and Korean-speaking content in SBS. This channel broadcast many of the latest dramas airing in Korea.

The city's main television transmitter is located atop Sugarloaf, in the Port Hills due south of the city centre, and broadcasts all major national television channels as well as the two local channels. All television channels in Christchurch have been broadcast in digital since analogue switch-off on 28 April 2013.


Christchurch has one full-time professional theatre, the Court Theatre,[74] which was based in the Christchurch Arts Centre. There is also an active recreational theatre scene with community based theatre companies, such as the Christchurch Repertory Society,[75] Elmwood Players,[76] the Free Theatre Christchurch, Riccarton Players,[77] and Canterbury Children's Theatre,[78] producing many quality shows.


The city is known for its many live acts,[79][80][81][82] has a professional symphony orchestra,[83] and is the base of professional opera company, Southern Opera.[84] Christchurch is a home for experimental music scene of New Zealand. The town is the home to such bands as The Bats, The Narcs, Shocking Pinks and Bailter Space.

There are usually buskers around the town square and Christchurch also hosts the World Buskers Festival in January each year. Singer/songwriter Hayley Westenra launched her international career by busking in Christchurch. Soon she was signed to Universal Music Group New Zealand, then later to Decca Label Group in London, England, where she now bases her career.

Christchurch also has an active and relatively large Metal scene, with metal acts playing in various locations around the central city almost weekly.

Christchurch is considered the New Zealand home of Drum and Bass and to a lesser extent Dubstep and various other "Bass Heavy" genres. Some of New Zealand's top performing acts such as Shapeshifter, Tiki Taane and Truth are from Christchurch. Venues and clubs such as The Bedford, Ministry, and Double Happy and many more regularly have international and New Zealand leading acts within the Drum and Bass scene performing live in Christchurch, along with dance parties, raves and gigs all featuring NZ and local Drum and Bass DJs, with often two or three happening on a single night or weekend (e.g. 2010 when UK Dubstep DJ Doctor P with Crushington was playing at The Bedford, while simultaneously Concord Dawn featuring Trei and Bulletproof was playing at Ministry). Independent Christchurch based radio station Pulzar FM is one of the few radio stations in New Zealand that plays Drum and Bass during the day.[85]

In recent movements, hip hop has effectively landed in Christchurch. In 2000, First Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit was held there. And in 2003, Christchurch’s own Scribe released his debut album in New Zealand and has received five times platinum in that country, in addition to achieving two number one singles.[86][87]

K-pop is slowly gaining popularity within the Asian youth community in this city.


Christchurch Casino with its playful hybrid of old and new architectural forms

The CBS Canterbury Arena is New Zealand's second largest permanent multipurpose arena, seating between 5000 and 8000, depending on configuration. It is home of the Canterbury Tactix netball side. It was the venue for the 1999 World Netball championships and has been host to many concerts in recent years.

The Christchurch Town Hall auditorium (2500 seats, opened 1972) was the first major auditorium design by architects Warren and Mahoney and acousticians Marshall Day. It is still recognised as a model example of concert-hall design. It has an excellent modern pipe organ but is currently closed.[88]

Christchurch also has a casino,[89] and there are also a wide range of live music venues[79][90]—some short-lived, others with decades of history. Classical music concerts are held at the Christchurch Music Centre.



  • Crusaders, formerly the 'Canterbury Crusaders', are a rugby union team based in Christchurch that compete in the Super Rugby competition.
  • The Canterbury Rugby Football Union, which governs rugby union in Christchurch and the surrounding region, fields a team that represents the city in the ITM Cup.
  • Canterbury Wizards are Christchurch's men's cricket team in New Zealand's State Championship while the Canterbury Magiciansplay in the counterpart women's tournament
  • Canterbury Tactix play in the trans-Tasman ANZ Championship netball league. Prior to 2008, the Canterbury Flames played in the national netball league, competing for the National Bank Cup.
  • Canterbury United play in the New Zealand Football Championship.
  • Christchurch Cougars play in the National Basketball League.
  • Canterbury Red Devils play in the New Zealand Ice Hockey League (NZIHL).
  • In addition, Christchurch Football Club, an amateur rugby union club, was founded in 1863, believed to be the oldest club of any code in New Zealand.[91]


  • 1974 British Commonwealth Games
  • 1982 Women's Cricket World Cup
  • 1989 XVI World Games for the Deaf (Now known Deaflympics) This was the first time the World Deaf Games was held in the Southern Hemisphere, in Christchurch
  • 1992 Cricket World Cup
  • 1999 World Netball Championships
  • 2000 Women's Cricket World Cup
  • 2011 IPC Athletics World Championships

note: The Rugby World Cup 2011 was set to host events in Christchurch, but due to the damage to AMI stadium, caused by the February 2011 earthquake, these events were moved to other venues.


Winter afternoon on the Christchurch coast

  • AMI Stadium (formerly Jade Stadium & Lancaster Park) was Christchurch's premier outdoor sporting ground, which played host to rugby union in the winter months and cricket in the summer months. It was home to the Crusaders Super Rugby and Canterbury Air New Zealand Cup rugby teams. It was also used by the New Zealand national cricket team and occasionally hosted a New Zealand Warriors rugby league match. AMI Stadium had a capacity of around 40,000 people for sporting fixtures, and around 50,000 for concerts. Severely damaged during the 2011 February Earthquake, the facility's future is uncertain.[92]
  • Queen Elizabeth II Park was built for the 1974 British Commonwealth Games, which Christchurch hosted. It is used primarily as an athletics park, but also contains a newly upgraded swimming pool complex. It has hosted major concerts from bands such as AC/DC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The facility has been demolished due to damage sustained in 22 February earthquake.[93]
  • Nunweek Park in Bishopdale is the main hockey venue in the city. Porritt Park in Avonside was the main venue until the 2010 Canterbury earthquake, when it was damaged by liquefaction.
  • CBS Arena in Addington, Christchurch. Hosted the 1999 Netball World Championships and continues to host international basketball and netball games.
  • Christchurch has more than a dozen golf courses, and has hosted the PGA Tour of Australasia/Nationwide Tour co-sanctioned Clearwater Classic/NZ PGA Championship at Clearwater Resort since 2002.
  • Alpine Ice Arena is home to the Canterbury Red Devils. It has hosted many national and international Ice Hockey tournaments, figure skating and speed skating events. The Aardwolfs Ice Hockey Club also play at the arena.
  • English Park in St Albans is the home venue for the Christchurch United Soccer team that plays in the national league.

Twin towns – Sister cities[]

Christchurch has seven sister cities around the world. They are:[94]

  • Australia Adelaide, South Australia, Australia (1972)
  • United Kingdom Christchurch, Dorset, England, United Kingdom (1972)
  • Japan Kurashiki, Okayama, Japan (1973)
  • United States Seattle, Washington, United States of America (1981)
  • People's Republic of China Lanzhou, Gansu, China (1984)
  • South Korea Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea (1995)
  • People's Republic of China Wuhan, Hubei, China (2006)

Notable residents[]

Nathan Cohen

  • Nathan Cohen (born 1986), world champion and Olympic champion rower[95]
  • Lianne Dalziel (born 1960), Mayor of Christchurch[96]
  • Max Merritt (born 1941), singer-songwriter and guitarist[97]
  • Graham Henry (born 1946), rugby union coach, and former head coach of the All Blacks[98]

See also[]

  • Christchurch City Council
  • Christchurch City Holdings
  • List of radio stations in Christchurch
  • List of tallest buildings in Christchurch



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  • Reed, A.W. (2002) The Reed dictionary of New Zealand place names. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-790-00761-4.
  • Rice, Geoffrey (with assistance from Jean Sharfe)(1999) Christchurch changing: an illustrated history Christchurch: Canterbury University Press. ISBN 0-908812-53-1 (pbk.)

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