Spotlight: How Christchurch, New Zealand is focusing on regeneration

Support for Ōtautahi Christchurch, New Zealand’s second-largest city and the urban heart of its South Island, was high on the agenda for Rotary International when it held its New Zealand, Australia and South Pacific conference there in September 2019.

Despite being hit by two major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, the city has sustained its place as one of the country’s top destinations and found creative ways to cope.

“The conference theme was regeneration, which was relevant to two ways: the recovery in Christchurch and the wider region from the 2010-11 earthquake sequence and, more recently, the mosque attacks in March 2019,” explains organiser Ross Skinner. “The underlying intent was to show connection with the community as being of prime importance for Rotary’s ongoing relevance as a community-based service organisation.”

The venue for the event, attended by 475 delegates, including Rotary International’s World President Mark Maloney, was Christchurch Town Hall – which only reopened after a full NZ$167m refurbishment in February 2019, calling for ‘flexibility and adaptability’ on the part of the organising committee – which proved a hit with delegates.

“The venue and the use of the James Hay Theatre within it, the foyer and associated rooms for breakout sessions all proved very successful and the venue staff cooperated extremely well to ensure a successful event,” says Ross.

“A number of attendees, some with 30-plus years’ experience in attending these events, commented that it was up there with the best.”

Visitors were encouraged to ‘arrive early and stay late’, he adds: as part of the conference’s wider scope, a Gala Peace Dinner was held for 200 attendees at the Transitional Cathedral and a charity duck race on the Avon River raised over $1,000 was raised for local Muslim youth leadership initiatives, while an off-site symposium at the nearby Salvation Army centre looked at issues of relevance and engage with a younger demographic.


Christchurch_Rotary International – Regneration conference.


Christchurch Airport is located 12km to the northwest of the city; it takes around 20 minutes to drive from the airport to the city centre. Direct flights to Los Angeles will be arriving three times a week from October 2020; from London, the quickest one-stop flight takes some 24 hours.


The city is preparing to increase the number of hotel rooms from 3,000 to 4,000 by the end of 2022. There are currently seven three-star hotels, 21 four-star hotels and three which boast five stars, including the elegant George, which has 53 bedrooms and meeting facilities for up to 150 people. The NZ$40m boutique 86-room Sudima Hotel opened in August, and the new Novotel at Christchurch Airport has 10 meeting rooms in addition to its 200 bedrooms.

Key venue(s)

Te Pae Christchurch Convention Centre is set to be an architectural landmark when it opens in October: with a 1,400-person auditorium, 24 meeting rooms and 28,000 square metres of flexible conference space, it represents a huge boost to the city’s offering. The Piano is worth checking out, with its beautiful concert hall which seats 325 theatre-style, while the Horncastle Arena is the country’s second-largest indoor arena with over 4,000 sqm of floor space.

Key industries

Positioning itself as a city of modern-day explorers in the fields of technology, healthcare, future economy and social solutions, Christchurch is targeting four specific areas: aerospace and future transport; health tech and resilient communities; food, fibre and agritech; and hi-tech services. Other strengths include disaster planning and recovery, agriculture, earth and health science, and engineering and construction technology.


Support is available from the ChristchurchNZ Convention Bureau with city proposals, bid support, site visits, collateral and connections to local suppliers. Further assistance could be offered to organisers, depending on links to the city’s core growth areas.

Worth a visit 

Claire Hector

It’s well worth hopping on one of Christchurch’s heritage trams for a guided journey across the city’s top landmarks and attractions; try the Tramway Restaurant tours in the evening for a unique experience on board the 36-seater colonial-style dining tram.

The Cardboard Cathedral, or Transitional Cathedral, designed by Shigeru Ban as a temporary replacement for the original elegant building, is a poignant reminder of how much the city has endured. Made up of giant cardboard tubes with shipping container walls, it opened in 2013.

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