Christchurch (Māori: Ōtautahi) is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island’s east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 389,700 residents, making it New Zealand’s third most-populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.
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. Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.
The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks. At the request of the Deans brothers, the river was named after the River Avon in Scotland, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near to where their grandfather’s farm was located.
The usual Māori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi („the place of Tautahi“), 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 word Christian.
The city suffered a devastating series of earthquakes between September 2010 and early 2012, with the worst of them soon after midday on 22 February 2011, in which 185 people were killed and hundreds of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage. By late 2013, 1,500 buildings in the city had been demolished, leading to an ongoing recovery and rebuilding project.
On Saturday 4 September 2010, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck Christchurch and the central Canterbury region at 4:35 am. Located near Darfield, west of the city at a depth of 10 kilometres (6.2 mi), it caused widespread damage to the city and minor injuries, but no direct fatalities.
Nearly six months later on Tuesday 22 February 2011, a second earthquake measuring magnitude 6.3 struck the city at 12:51 pm. It was located closer to the city, near Lyttelton at a depth of 5 km (3 mi). Although lower on the moment magnitude scale than the previous earthquake, the intensity and violence of the ground shaking was measured to be IX (Violent), among the strongest ever recorded globally in an urban area and in total 185 people were killed. People from more than 20 countries were among the victims. The city’s iconic ChristChurch Cathedral was severely damaged and lost its spire. The collapse of the CTV Building resulted in the majority of fatalities. Widespread damage across Christchurch resulted in loss of homes, major buildings and infrastructure. Significant liquefaction affected the eastern suburbs, and the total cost to insurers of rebuilding has been estimated at NZ$20–30 billion.
On 13 June 2011 Christchurch was hit by two more large aftershocks. A magnitude 5.6 quake at a depth of 9 km (6 mi) hit at 1:00 pm in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. This was followed by another quake at magnitude 6.3 with a depth of 6 km (4 mi) at 2:20 pm again in the general location of Sumner, Christchurch. There were no fatalities though it resulted in further liquefaction and building damage.
There were further earthquakes on 23 December 2011; the first, of magnitude 5.8 according to the US Geological Survey, 26 km (16 mi) north-east of the city at a depth of 4.7 km (2.9 mi), at 13:58, followed by several aftershocks and another earthquake of magnitude 6.0 and similar location 80 minutes later, with more aftershocks expected. St John Ambulance reported after the two quakes that there were minor injuries at homes and businesses but no serious injuries and few indications of building collapses at the time. Christchurch Airport was briefly closed. There were power and water outages at New Brighton and severe damage to the Parklands region, including roads and footpaths.
Christchurch was again rattled awake on 2 January 2012; the first; a magnitude 5.1 struck at 01:27 followed five minutes later by a magnitude 4.2 aftershock; a second larger earthquake struck at 05:45 with a magnitude of 5.5. This caused power outages to the eastern suburbs of Parklands, New Brighton, Shirley, Dallington, Burwood, Spencerville and Richmond; this affected around 10,000 homes.
4,558 earthquakes were recorded in the Canterbury region above a magnitude 3.0, from 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2014.
Following the earthquakes over 1500 buildings in the city had been demolished or partly demolished by September 2013.
Cherry blossom trees in Spring bloom and a historic water wheel, located on a small island in the Avon River at the corner of Oxford Terrace and Hereford Street, Hagley Park in the city centre.
The city has been experiencing rapid growth following the earthquakes, with the central city rebuild, which is outlined in the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, starting to ramp up, and massive growth in the residential sector, with around 50,000 new houses expected to be constructed in the Greater Christchurch area by 2028, as outlined in the Land Use Recovery Plan (LURP).
2013 to present
On 13 February 2017, two bush fires started on the Port Hills. These merged over the next two days and the single very large wild fire extended down both sides of the Port Hill almost reaching Governors Bay in the south-west, and the Westmorland, Kennedys Bush, and Dyers Pass Road almost down to the Sign of the Takahe. Eleven houses were destroyed by fire, over one thousand residents were evacuated from their homes, and over 2,076 hectares (5,130 acres) of land has been burned.
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 in the central city there is a statue of Scott sculpted by his widow, Kathleen Scott. Within the city, the Canterbury Museum preserves and exhibits many historic artefacts and stories of Antarctic exploration. Christchurch International Airport serves as the major base for the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic programs.
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, had more than 140,000 pieces of extreme cold weather (ECW) gear for issue to nearly 2,000 US Antarctic Program (USAP) participants in the 2007–08 season.