Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the
country's second-largest urban area. It is one third 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 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.
The river which 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.
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, a transliteration of the English name.
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 as well as the Heathcote River. 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 the Banks Peninsula. As of 2006, the
Banks Peninsula was incorporated into the city, in effect tripling the city
s land area 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 has one of the highest-quality water supplies in the world,
rated one of the purest and cleanest water in the world. The water is
sourced via more than 50 pumping stations from aquifers which conduct it
from the foothills of the Southern Alps and provide natural filtering.
At the centre of the city is Cathedral Square, surrounding the 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) is considered the central business district of the city.
The central city also has a number of residential areas, including Inner
City East, Inner City West, Avon Loop, Moa Neighbourhood & Victoria.
Mairehau; Shirley; Dallington; Richmond; Avonside; Linwood; Woolston; Opawa;
Waltham; St Martins; Beckenham; Sydenham; Somerfield; Spreydon; Addington;
Riccarton; Ilam; Burnside; Fendalton; Bryndwr; Strowan; Merivale; Papanui;
Marshland; Burwood; Parklands; Waimairi Beach; Avondale; New Brighton;
Bexley; Aranui; South Brighton; Southshore; Bromley; Mt Pleasant; Redcliffs;
Sumner; Ferrymead; Heathcote Valley; Hillsborough; Murray Aynsley; Huntsbury
Cashmere; Westmorland; Hillmorton; Hoon Hay; Halswell; Oaklands; Wigram;
Middleton; Sockburn; Hornby; Islington; Templeton; Yaldhurst; Russley;
Avonhead; Harewood; Bishopdale; Casebrook; Redwood; Northwood; Belfast;
Christchurch has a dry, temperate climate, with mean daily maximum air
temperatures of 22.5 °C (72.5 °F) in January, 11.3 °C (52.3 °F) in July. The
summer climate 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
In winter it is common for the temperature to fall below 0 °C (32 °F) at
night. There are on average 70 days of ground frost per year. Snow falls
occur on average once or twice a year in the hill suburbs and about once or
twice every two years on the plain.
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. The city has funding available to upgrade domestic home heating
systems, and in order to limit air pollution has banned the use of open
fires as of 1 January 2006. As of 2008, woodburners more than 15 years old
The area administered by the Christchurch City Council has a population of
372,600 (June 2009 estimate), making it the second-largest in New Zealand,
and the largest city in the South Island. The Christchurch urban area is the
second-largest in the country by population, after Auckland.
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
Other agribusineses in Christchurch have included malting, seed development
and dressing, wool and meat processing, and small biotechnology operations
using byproducts 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
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.
Tourism is also a significant factor of the local economy. The closeness 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, with signage around Cathedral Square in Japanese.
Christchurch's local government is a democracy with various elements
* Christchurch City Council, comprising the Mayor of Christchurch, and
13 councillors elected in seven wards.
* Community boards , each covering one ward, with five members each plus
the two ward councillors. The Banks Peninsula Ward has 2 community boards
with five members each, plus the ward councillor, who is also a member of
* 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
* Canterbury Regional Council, known as 'Environment Canterbury',
including four Christchurch constituencies with two members from each
* District Health Board (Canterbury), with five members for Christchurch
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.
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. Māori oral history relates that humans occupied the area around the
year 1000. 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 in 1843 who stayed. The First Four Ships were chartered by
the Canterbury Association and arrived on 16 December 1850, bringing the
first 792 of the Canterbury Pilgrims to Lyttelton Harbour. These sailing
vessels were the Randolph, Charlotte-Jane, Sir George Seymour, and Cressy.
The Canterbury Pilgrims had aspirations of building a city around a
cathedral and college, on the model of Christ Church in Oxford. The name
Christ Church" was decided prior to the ships' arrival, at the Association's
first meeting, on 27 March 1848.
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.
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.
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
Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, the first in
New Zealand. Many of the city's Gothic 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.
The Lyttelton Road Tunnel between Lyttelton and Christchurch was opened in
Christchurch was also host to the 1974 British Commonwealth Games.
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 there is a statue of Scott, sculpted by
his widow, Kathleen Scott, in the central city.
Within the city the Canterbury Museum preserves and exhibits many historic
artifacts and stories of Antarctic exploration.
Christchurch International Airport serves as the major base for the Italian
and United States Antarctic programs as well as the New Zealand Antarctic
programme. 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, has 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.
Parks and nature
The large number of public parks and well-developed residential gardens with many trees has given Christchurch the name of The Garden City. 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.