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August 25, 2012

Christchurch asks Aussies to return

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker has appealed to Australians to return to the city, which has seen visitor numbers drop off sharply since the February 2011 earthquake which destroyed much of its city centre.

In Sydney to share the blueprint for rebuilding Christchurch, Parker reiterated that the city is not only “open for business” but that there is plenty for people to see and do while they’re there.

Parker was joined by Tim Hunter, chief executive of Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism, and Tim Dearsley, manager of the Ibis, Christchurch, which will be the first hotel to re-open in the CBD when it throws open its doors in late September.

The blueprint, which was released by the New Zealand government in late July, seeks to significantly shrink the size of the CBD making it a more compact, people-friendly space framed with parks. The banks of the Avon River will be central to this vision allowing people to make the most of the city's scenic waterway (pictured). 

Other elements of the plan include a new centrally-located convention centre, which will be able to cater for up 2000 delegates and will also include hotels and shops; a new covered stadium designed for international sporting fixtures and concerts, and a new music centre and home for Christchurch’s Symphony Orchestra, as well as new auditoria for the performing arts.

Additional precincts including business, innovation and health - anchored by the current hospital - will be developed as part of the overall plan, which has been called “bold and innovative”. Around $30 billion has been earmarked for the project.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity out of adversity,” said Parker. “If we simply rebuild we’re missing out on one of the great opportunities any city has had in the 21st Century.”

Hunter, who is tasked with bringing Australians back to the city, said "this blueprint accentuates the stunning garden city attributes of Christchurch and shapes Christchurch as a city of the future - a place where people will want to come and visit once again". 

Grassroots-driven projects such as Project Re:Start, a brightly coloured shipping container shopping mall; Gap Filler, which is temporarily activating empty sites with creative projects such as a free book exchange and bicycle-powered cinema, and pop-up bars and restaurants, have revitalised the city, he added. Ninety per cent of the city’s main attractions are open.


While there are already 8800 beds available in the city, the re-opening of the Ibis and several other hotels to follow soon, means the city will soon have more places for visitors to stay, according to Hunter, significantly improving options for casual visitors and business events groups alike.

To drive the message home, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism will launch a new creative campaign next month designed to put Christchurch back on Australian’s travel radar. Themed "Christchurch Reimagined", the campaign will showcase the excitement of the developing city through the eyes of its residents and also visitors.

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