By Simon Brandon
It is more than eight years since Christchurch, the largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, was hit by a devastating earthquake, which killed 185 people. Thanks to a major reconstruction programme, Christchurch is recovering and rebuilding.
Natural and man-made beauty
The 2011 earthquake gave Christchurch an “extraordinary opportunity to boldly redesign the city”, according to the city council. This work, which is expected to cost a total of NZ$40bn ($26bn), is ongoing; among the projects is a new waterfront precinct along the city’s Avon River.
Now, most Christchurch residents seem to be happy with life: in a survey conducted by the council last year, 83 per cent of respondents reported a good or very good quality of life, while nearly three-quarters agreed that Christchurch is a “great place to live”. The new building and infrastructure sit happily alongside the tree-lined streets, 407-acre Hagley Park with the Christchurch Botanic Gardens at its heart and the aforementioned Avon River that earned Christchurch the moniker of New Zealand’s garden city.
Investment in tech
Technology is New Zealand’s third-largest export as well as its fastest-growing — and best-paying — sector, according to government figures, and Christchurch is the country’s third-largest IT hub, after Auckland and Wellington. The national government has included many IT roles on its skill shortages list, which makes it easier for incomers to obtain a work visa. Christchurch’s IT sector has fallen behind the rest of the country since the earthquake, however, and the city council is keen to reverse this trend; as part of its 2015-2025 Tech Sector Strategy, the city aims to attract global IT talent.
Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the city’s temperate climate and natural beauty make it a great base for lovers of the outdoors. Some of New Zealand’s most popular skiing areas are within easy reach of the city: Mt Hutt, voted the country’s best ski resort by the World Ski Awards for the past five years, is less than two hours’ drive away.
Heart of wine country
New Zealand’s wineries are one of the country’s success stories. A 40-minute drive north of Christchurch is the Waipara Valley, home to more than 75 producers; it covers 1,200 hectares and produces more than 100,000 cases of wine annually and is gaining a reputation for Pinot Noirs and Rieslings. One of the region’s best-known producers, Pegasus Bay, serves its wines alongside seasonal food in an award-winning restaurant.
Christchurch has a creative and hipsterish feel, exemplified by its thriving arts scene. The city offers striking and ubiquitous street art, which has sprung up both alongside and on its new buildings — including pieces by the Canadian muralist Kevin Ledo, whose work can be seen at the corner of Armagh Street and Colombo Street, and New Zealander Kelly Spencer.
Local organisation Watch This Space offers two-hour tours of the street art in Christchurch’s city centre. The city also hosts the World Buskers Festival, which attracts international musicians, performers and artists each January — and around 300,000 visitors, according to the event’s organisers.
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Photographs: Dreamstime; Alamy; Kevin Ledo