Cradled between hill country and the Pacific Ocean, neighbouring the undulating Canterbury Plains that stretch to the Southern Alps, is Christchurch.
Christchurch is known as New Zealand’s “Garden City” and it serves as a gateway to the wider Canterbury region and stunningly scenic South Island as a whole.
Unfortunately, New Zealand’s second-largest city has been rocked by a series of earthquakes since 2010, one of which claimed the lives of 180 people and tragically laid waste to the city’s architectural heritage, including its outstanding Christchurch Cathedral.
True to its nickname, "the Garden City" is literally one big, rambling garden and, once its energetic rebuild program is complete, it will be more botanical than ever before. The city’s council has unveiled plans for a city encompassed within gardens, with a more compact and subtle (owing to height restrictions) central business district giving way to yet more parkland.
Today, despite the rubble, Christchurch continues to boast a vibrant business and cultural scene. Apart from central city and the Eastern suburbs, much of it survived the ravages of the earthquakes. In the city centre you can find a fantastic array of restaurants, theatres, Maori cultural centres and galleries. Head out of town and you’ll stumble upon some of the country’s best vineyards, ski resorts and golf clubs.
The road infrastructure may have taken a battering, but getting around Christchurch is easy, particularly if you ditch four wheels in favour of two. More people cycle in Christchurch than in any other New Zealand city, owing to the fact that, post-quake, bikes offer a more reliable mode of transport. The city boasts 330km of on- and off-road cycle tracks, which makes the two-wheeled option an easy and useful choice.
Christchurch’s clear blue skies are the norm, year round. Summers are generally mild and sunny with low humidity; its winters bring delicate morning frosts and clear, calm days, and in spring the garden city bursts into a breath-taking display of colour. With a gratifying spectrum of recreational pursuits on offer, Christchurch is a city in which you can opt for action-packed outdoor living or a restful, leisurely lifestyle the entire year round.
What is special or unique about your city?
Christchurch remains a great place to live. Since the devastating earthquakes, the large scale rebuilding effort has seen an influx of people moving to the Garden City to participate in the reconstruction effort. Most of the city centre is now removed due to damage sustained during the earthquakes. But much of the surrounding area still offers the expansive public parks and gardens for which Christchurch is loved.
The city is located halfway down the East Coast of the South Island and only an hour to the foothills of the Southern Alps. Christchurch has a reputation for both its contrasting natural landscape and beauty. The backdrop of the mountains and access to the shore and beaches still remains highly attractive to those seeking world-class outdoor adventures and activities.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
When you fly into Christchurch, you will be surprised to see how close the Alps, the agricultural land, the Port Hills and the sea are to the city. You will also admire the stately Avon river that meanders from the harbour through the city and Hagley Park, sprinkled with gondolas ponting in a leisurely fashion up and down.
Christchurch is known for its resemblance to an English city. The careful town planning of the early settlers from England gave Christchurch wide streets, an abundance of trees and parks and impressive neo-Gothic architecture. The Christchurch rebuild is an exciting time to incorporate the old and the new.
Christchurch residents fervently support their sports teams. From late summer until spring, rugby is a passionate topic of conversation and the popularity of the local professional franchise ‘The Crusaders’ is impossible to overlook; you’ll see great displays of red and black flags throughout the city.
Are these impressions likely to change?
People will always remember the Christchurch that existed before the earthquakes. Everyone will be participating in and watching the birth of the new city.