Christchurch, New Zealand


Christchurch - The Garden City 1)

Christchurch (Maori name: Otautahi) is New Zealand's third largest city. It is dubbed 'The Garden City' because of extensive public green space and park areas throughout the city including the 161 hectare Hagley Park near the city centre. This nickname 'The Garden City' is well deserved as Christchurch was judged Overall Winner of Major Cities in the Nations in Bloom International Competition in 1997 officially claiming recognition as ‘Garden City of the World’.

In recent times Christchurch became famous for an entirely different reason when it was struck by a series of powerful earthquakes between 2010 and 2012.

The first major event on Saturday September 4 2010 at 4:35 am was a magnitude 7.1 quake. This event caused significant damage to buildings and roads in the city. Minor injuries were suffered by residents but there were no casualties.

On Tuesday February 22 2011 a second major earthquake struck at 12:51 pm. Although measuring a lower magnitude of 6.3 the epicentre was closer to the city centre and at a shallow depth. These factors produced ground shaking amongst the highest ever recorded in an urban area. 185 people lost their life in this second earthquake. The city's infrastructure already weakened by the earthquake 6 months prior suffered major damage.

In total 4,423 earthquakes above magnitude 3.0 were recorded in Christchurch between 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2012.

Over 1,000 buildings in the city centre were demolished and approximately 12,000 residential homes were to be demolished as a result of damage suffered or because repair to bring the building or land up to higher building codes wasn't economically viable.

Despite the loss of life, buildings and extensive damage to the city's heritage sites and infrastructure the population is rising. The city is committed to rebuilding and has a long term plan to see 50,000 new homes built and a new vibrant city centre by 2028.


Christ Church Cathedral central city Christchurch before the earthquakes 2)


Christ Church Cathedral central city Christchurch after the earthquakes 3)

Geography and Climate

The city is located near the east coast of the South Island about a third of the way down. Christchurch is situated on a plain in the province of Canterbury. Residents of the city enjoy being close to the sea with the eastern part of the city bordering Pegasus Bay which provides a stretch of sandy beach suitable for bathing. To the south and south-east of the city the Port Hills separate the urban part of the city from picturesque Lyttleton harbour.

Christchurch is within 2 hours drive of good ski fields, braided rivers, wet lands, lakes and the Southern Alps making it a gateway to some of New Zealand's most scenic places.

Drinking water quality in Christchurch is excellent with naturally filtered water pumped from aquifers which start at the base of the Southern Alps.

Christchurch has a population of 341,469, less than 10 percent of New Zealand's total population (4,242,048) according to a census in March of 2013.4)

Christchurch has a temperate oceanic climate but often temperatures in the city feel hotter than they are due to the urban heat island phenomenon similar to that experienced in New York.

Summer runs from December through February with mean daily maximum temperature in January of 22.5 °C (73 °F) a cooling north-easterly sea-breeze often provides some cool relief. A record temperature of 41.6 °C (107 °F) was measured in February 1973.

Winter runs from June through August with mean daily maximum temperature in July of 11.3 °C (52 °F). The temperature frequently falls below freezing in winter with up to one hundred days of ground frost per year. The coldest temperature −7.1 °C (19 °F) was recorded on 18 July 1945.


The Christchurch area was originally populated by the indigenous Maori people. Their oral history would suggest approximately a thousand years of habitation in the area by their ancestors. Archaeological evidence was found in 1876 that indicates settlement as early as 1250 AD. These early hunters likely came to hunt the now extinct giant bird the Moa. Early Maori migrants from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand are known to have arrived in the 16th century with migration continuing until the 1830's. These migrants were from different Maori tribes and following tribal warfare the Ngai Tahu tribe became the dominant tribe in the region.

In 1770 Captain James Cook first sighted the area known as Banks Peninsula which is where Lyttleton harbour is now located to the south-east of the urban centre. This is the first recorded European sighting.

Forty-five years later in 1815 the first European set foot in Canterbury with the first settlers inhabiting the plains in 1840. By 1850 the whaling industry was operating ships out of Lyttleton Harbour.

In 1850-1851 the first coordinated group of 792 European settlers (known as the Canterbury Pilgrims) arrived in Lyttleton Harbour on four ships arranged by the Canterbury Association. They wished to build a city around a cathedral and a college inspired by the model of Christ Church in Oxford England. It is commonly accepted that the city derives its name from Christ Church in Oxford although nobody is certain.

On the 31st of July 1856 Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter making it the first official city in New Zealand.


Christchurch built its economy on agriculture and primary industry. Sheep farming was the backbone of the city's early economy later diversifying into dairy and dairy products.

Wheat, barley, clover and other seed crops are an important part of the area's agricultural industry with a focus on export markets.

In recent years heavy development into deer farming, wine making and olive growing have further diversified the agricultural scene in Canterbury.

Christchurch also sees itself as a leader in technology with several internationally renowned technology companies founded and operating out of the city. The city's leading university has created several spin-off companies from their electrical engineering department.


Christchurch is distinctly an English city, in fact it was commonly referred to in France as the city that was “more English than England”. While heavily English in heritage there is still a marked multi-cultural influence around the city from the Gothic Revival architectural style of many of the heritage buildings through to the natural influence of the indigenous Maori culture.


English culture - punting on the Avon River Christchurch5)


Christchurch has an excellent bus service with a network of routes across the city including regular services to nearby small towns such as Rolleston, Lincoln and Rangiora.

The Christchurch International Airport is the gateway to other New Zealand cities like the capital Wellington or new Zealand's largest city Auckland. There are regular international flights to Austalia, Europe, USA and other Pacific Island destinations.

New Zealand | Travel | Regional

Photo courtesy wehardy - Creative Commons
Photo courtesy Phil Goth - Creative Commons
Photo courtesy - Christchurch City Libraries - Creative Commons
Photo courtesy Bruce Tuten - Creative Commons

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