“In this time of great sadness, what matters is that we as the travel industry unite to show our support for Christchurch, Cantabrians and Kiwis everywhere,” says Matt Leedham, Founder, KARRYON.

New Zealand’s third largest city, Christchurch (Ōtautahi) has always had a special place in my heart.

I first visited New Zealand’s garden city twenty years ago on my way to nearby whale spotting centre Kaikoura on the famous TranzAlpine railway and was instantly enamoured by the city’s expansive, beautiful green parks, European influence and welcoming people.

I quickly realised that this city of roses isn’t a place that takes itself too seriously but one that instead relies upon its stunning Southern Alp vistas, Maori and early settler heritage and creative expression to tell its own, unique South Island story.


Christchurch is a laid back, university town where you can peacefully wander or cycle the quiet tree-lined streets by the Avon River and then sit in one of the many excellent little café’s sampling (of course) fantastic coffee while you strike up a conversation with a local who will always have time to chew the fat with you over a brew.

In the years that followed my first visit, I travelled to the city numerous times to attend travel conferences and fam trips and got to know it a little better, which only made me love the place even more.

The devastating earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 that ripped the heart out of the city claiming 186 lives had a profound effect on me and when I next visited I was heartbroken to see for myself the town levelled with sadly, around 80% of those beautiful landmarks gone.

ReSTART: Shopping Mall

ReSTART: Shopping Mall

But, adversely, to see the energy, resilience and drive of the locals banding together at that time to regenerate the fabric of their city into something great again was extraordinary and brought tears of joy to my eyes.

Such is the Cantabrian spirit and ’can do’ attitude – They just get on with it.

At the time, there we so many remarkable initiatives happening such as ReSTART, an innovative pop-up shopping centre made out of shipping containers to cool street art on walls (that were still standing), public sculptures on street corners, a cathedral made from cardboard and an interactive touchscreen device that allows pedestrians to play ping pong with others across the street as they wait to cross (yes really!).

And… my absolute favourite… Gap Filler’s Dance-O-Mat – an open-air dance floor in the middle of town complete with a glitter ball, lights and speakers that can be turned on by depositing NZ$2 in a coin-operated washing machine.

Check out Prince Charles busting some moves on the Dance-O-Mat on a visit a few years ago. Brilliant.

The Dance-O-Mat. Even Prince Charles busted some moves

The Dance-O-Mat with Prince Charles

As the current Mayor of Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel puts it;

“How can cities be resilient? It involves making the best of a difficult situation and turning it into an opportunity to do things you didn’t think you could do. The disaster brought about opportunities that didn’t exist before”.

Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch

One thing is for sure, even multiple earthquakes were not going to stop Cantabrians from collaborating to re-create a city they would want to live in proudly while welcoming visitors in the process. It’s still an enormous task to complete, but bit by bit, the landscape is changing for the better.

I last visited in June last year on my way to Queenstown and was so impressed to experience the next phase of the city’s re-birthing as more and more new exciting additions had begun.


The new city is taking shape…

Christchurch is a place where you feel like everyone knows each other, and in many cases, they do thanks to a few degrees of separation.

But it’s also a vibrant city of ethnic diversity and tolerance and one that has welcomed countless refugees and migrants of all nations and faiths for decades into the fold to become Kiwis and also call Christchurch home.

Tragically, some of those new Kiwis were caught up in the horrific events of last Friday.

So it’s important to take note of what has been voiced so loudly about the monstrosity that occurred last Friday – ‘THIS IS NOT NEW ZEALAND’.

Proud Cantabrians pay their respects

The Christchurch Tourism site says it all…

”New Zealand is a country that values peace and kindness. Christchurch is a city that cherishes these values and will continue to unite in fostering love and hope.”

If you’ve got clients concerned about travelling to Christchurch in any way, shape or form, I would suggest to them that right now, the people and the city need to welcome them more than ever.


As an industry, we know that travel is the best tool of all to break down myths, barriers and perceptions, and ultimately fear of difference.

Travel offers people the life-changing opportunity to open up and be educated to a real picture of the world and the insight that all of us humans who inhabit it actually have the same needs and desires.

I firmly believe good will always triumph over evil and that ‘Travel to change the world’ is the vision and hope we all need to act on and hold onto.


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As the resilient place Christchurch has proven to be, the city and its people will recover. But for now, what matters is that we together mourn with our Kiwi brothers and sisters and as an industry, do everything we can to support them to help them get back on their feet.

You can play your part by sending your love to the people of Christchurch as well as your clients.

And if you feel like you want to do, even more, you can also donate to the official crowdfunding site (Givealittle) for victims families here. Already the site has raised an incredible NZ$5m.

Visit www.christchurchnz.com or www.newzealand.com/au/christchurch for more information.


Have you travelled to Christchurch before? Share your thoughts below.