City Focus – Christchurch
While New Zealand continues to mourn those who lost their lives in the terrorist attack on two mosques earlier this year, it is important to remember that the proud and beautiful city of Christchurch is not defined by the terrible acts that have so recently brought it to the forefront of international attention. In the spirit of this, we have taken a look at the city’s history, businesses and tourist attractions that earmark Christchurch as one of the country’s finest metropolises.
According to the World Population Review, Christchurch is New Zealand’s third most populous city and the largest on the South Island, with an estimated population of 363,926 across around 235 square miles. The city is home to the country’s second-oldest university, the University of Canterbury, and the International Antarctic Centre signifies its status as one of the world’s five gateways to the icy continent. Boasting some of New Zealand’s best beaches, Christchurch is considered to be a historical, cultural, and academic hub of the Pacific nation. First settled by British colonists in 1848, the city was named Christchurch after settler John Godley’s college at Oxford University. The early city was soon populated by shiploads of British settlers in the following years, and Christchurch was officially established as a city by Royal Charter in 1856. In modernity, Christchurch’s principle economic drivers are farming, tourism, and manufacturing. Agriculture has been the core of Christchurch’s economy throughout history, and New Zealand’s leading agribusiness, PGG Wrightson, is based in the city. This focus on farming is facilitated by Christchurch’s temperate oceanic climate and volcanic terrain.
Following a series of powerful earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 that inflicted significant damage on the city’s buildings and infrastructure, rebuilding and recovery operations have been ongoing throughout the decade. New Zealand’s government has invested, and will continue to invest, billions of dollars to restore the city’s roads to their former quality, redevelop public transport links, support victims through their psychological recoveries, and complete a series of anchor projects aimed at bolstering confidence and pride in the city. Simultaneously, the Smart Cities Christchurch project has been assessing and implementing an array of disruptive technologies for the benefit of the city’s population and its tourists. The EQRNet solution is one such addition to the city’s digital infrastructure, utilising a sensor system to analyse real-time seismic data to mitigate the impact of earthquakes through data-driven decision-making. Citizen information has now been consolidated into the SmartView app, drawing from myriad sources to provide Christchurch residents with up-to-date details on the weather, local events, news, maps, public services, and more. The government is currently trialling a new pedestrian counting method, using cameras around the city to measure citizen density and direction of movement in place of the traditional method of university students counting heads with clickers. Keen to deploy digital technologies that serve entertaining purposes alongside functional and safety-related uses, a series of SmartCross units have been installed around the city’s roads. The SmartCross units, mounted at pedestrian crossing points, feature touchscreen displays and internet connections to enable people to play games and access local information while they wait. Keeping safety in mind, the SmartCross units only operate while the lights are red, and their games have been specially designed to engage and satisfy users briefly. Other newly-installed technologies include smart rubbish bins which feature sensors to ensure they are emptied at the point of need, and a smart mobility parking solution which has been deployed to ensure people who require accessible parking are able to find a spot when they need one.
Things to do
For residents and tourists alike, Christchurch offers a wealth of fantastic sights and experiences. Known unofficially as New Zealand’s ‘Garden City’, Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury area is home to an array of nature reserves, native wetlands, parks, and forests. Hagley Park, in the centre of the city, offers a picturesque idyll as a break from the urban setting. The space, split into the North Hagley Park, South Hagley Park, and Little Hagley Park, hosts open-air concerts, carnivals, an annual flower show, and netball and cricket facilities. Situated within the park are the city’s Botanical Gardens whose first plantings date back to the 1860s, and to the east of the parkland the Christchurch Art Gallery houses one of the country’s most important public art collections. To the south, Victoria Park offers incredible views of the city, the bays surrounding Quail Island, and the Southern Alps. Similarly, extraordinary views can be found on the Christchurch Gondola ride to the crater summit of the extinct volcano, Mt. Cavendish, with Lyttelton Harbour, the city, the Canterbury Plains, and the Southern Alps all within sight. The crater rim is also a hotspot for hikers, paragliders, and mountain bikers, offering some of the country’s most scenic routes. At sea level, Christchurch harbours some of New Zealand’s finest beaches, including Corsair Bay, Sumner and Scarborough, Taylors Mistake, the Akaroa Banks peninsula, and Waikuku Beach. With such a rich tapestry of stunning vistas and soothing destinations, Christchurch is emblematic of New Zealand’s national reputation for natural beauty and serenity.