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Moving to Christchurch

Christchurch, located on the east coast of New Zealand's South Island, is a captivating destination that offers a blend of natural beauty and a vibrant city centre.

Following the devastating earthquakes of 2011, Christchurch has undergone significant reconstruction and transformation. While the tragedy profoundly impacted the city's character, it also sparked a period of renewal, cultural growth and economic development.

Expats considering moving to Christchurch can now experience the fruits of these efforts, with a revitalised city centre and a range of stunning natural landscapes to explore. Whether they want to immerse themselves in the city's rich culture, enjoy outdoor activities or indulge in culinary delights, Christchurch has something for people from all walks. 

Living as an expat in Christchurch

Changes to the city can be seen within the city centre, which closed down following the earthquake and has since reopened to reveal a quirky and charming mix of old and new. Although areas of the destroyed city have not yet been rebuilt, reconstruction of Christchurch is an ongoing process that will likely continue for many years. Finding suitable accommodation in Christchurch can be challenging at times, but with some research and perseverance, expats can find a comfortable place to call home.

Since the earthquakes, the local economy has recovered substantially and is showing signs of steady growth. With a solid base in agriculture and tourism and a growing IT sector, expats have plenty of career opportunities. Predictably, expats with civil engineering and construction expertise are in high demand.

New Zealanders are well travelled and tend to get along well with foreigners, which means most expats find it easy to make friends and assimilate into the culture. As in the rest of New Zealand, expats living in Christchurch enjoy a high standard of living. Christchurch boasts a balanced lifestyle of city living with plenty of beautiful greenery for those that enjoy a bit of fresh air.

Cost of living in Christchurch

Overall, the cost of living in New Zealand is high, and Christchurch is no exception. Imported goods are particularly expensive (and most goods are imported). In addition to the cost, a 15 percent national sales tax is attached to all purchases.

That said, many services are subsidised by the government, which decreases the cost of living in Christchurch. Notably, healthcare in New Zealand is of excellent quality, and medication and services are either free or fairly cheap. Public education in New Zealand is also accessible at no cost or is heavily subsidised by the state.

Expat families and children in Christchurch

There are several highly regarded high schools in Christchurch. Single-sex schools, particularly, are known for academic achievement, though many public co-educational high schools are also esteemed. 

Christchurch is the gateway for most visitors to the South Island, and the city's tourism industry is well-developed. Numerous popular attractions nearby make for easy day or weekend trips away from the city. Akaroa, Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura have always been popular destinations for a quick getaway.

Climate in Christchurch

The weather in Christchurch can change rapidly and frequently. Locals dress in layers and often grab an extra jacket before leaving the house 'just in case'. Christchurch's seasons are relatively mild, but winters can be brutal, as few houses have insulation or central heating.

Expats moving to Christchurch can expect welcoming locals, beautiful parks and reserves, and an urban city centre with touches of pre-earthquake architecture, making it an ideal spot to raise a family.

Accommodation in Christchurch

Although accommodation in Christchurch is relatively cheaper than in other major New Zealand cities, high demand and potential for future growth have resulted in rising prices. This has also led to homes selling quickly once on the market, so expats must act swiftly once they find a property that suits them.

Christchurch's housing market suffered severe damage following the 2011 earthquakes, which resulted in the destruction of many homes and the demolition of around 10,000 more. Consequently, the city experienced soaring demand and a low supply of accommodation. However, the housing market has since stabilised, and thousands of new homes have been built.

The earthquakes also led to the temporary closure of the city centre, causing many businesses to relocate to the outer suburbs and the industrial area around the airport. Consequently, the prices and demand for housing in these areas have increased significantly.

The decision to rent or buy in Christchurch depends primarily on the availability of suitable properties and expats' long-term plans.

Areas and suburbs in Christchurch

Christchurch is a diverse city with various areas and suburbs to suit every expat's lifestyle and preferences. The central business district (CBD) is the heart of the city and is home to many offices, restaurants and shops. The CBD has a range of apartments and flats, making it a convenient location for expats who prefer to live close to their workplaces. However, rental prices in the CBD are generally higher than in other areas in Christchurch, and the availability of properties is limited.

Expats who prefer a more relaxed lifestyle can consider the suburbs of Christchurch. The eastern suburbs, such as Sumner, Port Hills and Redcliffs, offer stunning ocean views and a beachy vibe. These suburbs are perfect for expats who enjoy outdoor activities such as surfing, swimming and hiking.

The western suburbs, such as Riccarton and Ilam, are home to the University of Canterbury and the Westfield Riccarton shopping mall. These suburbs offer a lively atmosphere, with various restaurants, bars and entertainment options. The outer reaches of Christchurch, such as Rolleston, Prebbleton and Lincoln, provide more space and are popular for expats wanting larger homes.

The southern suburbs of Christchurch, such as Cashmere and Halswell, offer a peaceful and scenic setting with many parks, reserves and walking tracks. These suburbs are perfect for families or expats who enjoy a quieter lifestyle. The northern suburbs, including St. Albans and Merivale, offer a blend of residential and commercial areas, with various shops, cafés and restaurants. These suburbs are perfect for expats who want to be close to the city centre but also enjoy a suburban lifestyle.

Types of accommodation in Christchurch

Within the city, housing is mainly offered in the form of apartment blocks or townhouses, while the suburbs offer mid-sized homes with gardens of varying sizes.

The quality of accommodation varies with the age and location of the property, as well as the damage sustained from the 2011 earthquakes. Modern apartment blocks offer compact one or two-bedroom properties, usually with private parking (either behind a security gate or in a designated parking zone) and a communal garden area. Modern townhouses provide a larger living space, typically within a group of similar properties, whereas older ones tend to be detached. 

It is possible to have a garden area within the city limits. The further from the city centre, the higher the chance of getting a garden and also the bigger the outside areas become.

Owing to design regulations following the earthquakes, new properties are built to a more exacting standard than older buildings, many of which have been altered to meet the new codes. Some properties deemed safe to live in may still have superficial damage, such as minor cracks or internal fittings that aren't entirely level.

These should be corrected in time, and as a tenant, it may be necessary to vacate the property during repairs. Confirming the likelihood of this happening before signing a lease is best.

Furnished or unfurnished

Expats looking for accommodation in Christchurch have the option to rent both furnished and unfurnished properties. Renting a furnished property is an excellent option for those who do not want to bring furniture or prefer to avoid the hassle of buying and moving furniture. Furnished properties generally have all the necessary appliances and household items, making it easier for expats to settle in.

Short-term rentals

Expats who are not looking for a long-term commitment or are unsure about the duration of their stay can opt for short-term rentals in Christchurch. These types of rentals are a fantastic option for those who need a temporary place to stay while they search for more permanent accommodation, or for those who are visiting the city for a short period. Short-term rentals are typically fully furnished and equipped with all the necessary amenities, making it easier for expats to settle in.

The rent for short-term rentals is often higher than for long-term rentals, but the fact that utilities are often included in the rental price could compensate for this. Expats should also remember that short-term rentals may have stricter policies regarding deposits and lease agreements.

Finding accommodation in Christchurch

Several websites such as Real Estate NZ and TradeMe list properties available for rent or sale and provide links to established estate agents. 

Expats can find estate agency offices throughout Christchurch, and they shouldn't struggle to find an agent with offerings in their desired area. Many of these agencies also produce property newsletters that expats can pick up for free from their offices to help with their house hunt. 

Renting accommodation in Christchurch

Renting in Christchurch is reasonably straightforward once a property has been selected.

Making an application

Expats can apply for accommodation by contacting real-estate agents or landlords or responding to advertisements. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will handle housing legislation and all official property renting processes. Once the relevant checks have been done and references verified, the landlord and tenant can sign a lease.

Costs and fees

Rent in Christchurch, as in the rest of New Zealand, is usually paid weekly. Although estate agents have traditionally charged a fee for their services, recent legislation prohibits agents from charging tenants letting fees.

Unfurnished properties are more common than furnished properties in Christchurch, and tenants are therefore required to supply their furniture and anything else they may need. Expats should make room in their budget for furnishing their property or shipping their belongings to New Zealand.


When securing a lease, landlords will frequently require a deposit equivalent to one month's rent and the first two weeks of rent in advance. 


When using an estate agency, leases tend to be for a fixed term of 12 months and allow for changes to rental agreements when renewing a contract. If dealing directly with the landlord, lease terms can be more variable and even negotiable.

See Accommodation in New Zealand for more details on the rental process.


In Christchurch, tenants are usually responsible for paying for their utilities, which include water, gas, electricity, rubbish and recycling. Expats should therefore consider this when looking for accommodation.

To set up utilities, expats can typically contact the respective utility companies directly or through their property manager. Most utility companies in New Zealand have online portals where tenants can register and manage their accounts, pay bills and view their usage history.

Christchurch City Council is responsible for water, rubbish, recycling, and many other services. Expats can register for an online account on the council's website, set up automatic payments and view their billing and usage history, or pay in person at a council service centre or by mail.

There are several electricity and gas providers in Christchurch, including Trustpower, Contact Energy, Genesis Energy and Orion. Expats can compare their rates and plans on websites such as Glimp or Powerswitch. Piped gas is available in Christchurch for both residential and commercial properties. Two major gas companies, Contact Energy and Nova Energy, supply the gas. If it's not already installed, expats must arrange for a gas fitter to install a gas meter and connect the property to the gas network.

Expats must note that some properties may have pre-existing contracts with utility companies, and tenants may be required to continue using these providers. Clarifying the utility arrangements with the property manager or landlord before signing a tenancy agreement is essential.

Lifestyle in Christchurch

Moving to a new city can be exciting and daunting, especially for expats unfamiliar with the local customs and lifestyle, but expats moving to Christchurch are in for a treat. Despite the challenges posed by the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011, Christchurch has managed to reinvent itself, emerging as a vibrant and resilient city that offers an unparalleled quality of life.

The lifestyle in Christchurch will give expats plenty to discover, from its picturesque parks and beaches to its thriving culinary and arts scenes, this charming city has something for everyone.

Shopping in Christchurch

Shopping in Christchurch is an exciting experience that offers a diverse range of products and shopping destinations. From boutique stores and local markets to high-end designer boutiques, Christchurch will leave shopaholics wanting for nothing. Whether expats are looking for the latest fashion trends, unique souvenirs or fresh produce, the city has it all. Here are some of the best shopping areas to explore in Christchurch.

Central Business District

Christchurch's Central Business District (CBD) is the city's main shopping hub. Visitors can explore one of the city's biggest shopping malls, The Crossing, which offers a unique shopping experience and is a vibrant mixture of department stores and luxury retails. The CBD also features the SALT District, a stylish yet quaint shopping precinct that champions sustainable and local brands.


Riccarton is one of Christchurch's busiest suburbs and is home to the largest shopping mall in the South Island, Westfield Riccarton. The mall features more than 180 stores, including international brands such as H&M, Zara, and Apple. Visitors can also explore the Riccarton Market, which offers a wide range of local produce, food, and crafts.


Merivale is a sophisticated suburb located just a few minutes' drive away from the CBD. The area is home to a range of high-end fashion boutiques, premium home décor stores, and gourmet food shops. Visitors can also explore Merivale Mall, a stylish shopping complex that offers a plethora of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle stores.

New Brighton

New Brighton is a vibrant seaside suburb that offers various local shops and markets. The area is home to New Brighton Mall and New Brighton Farmers Market, which is open every Saturday for the sale of fresh local produce and artisanal goods.

Eating out in Christchurch

From cafés and pubs to restaurants and fine dining, Christchurch has a varied and sophisticated culinary scene. Several mobile coffee carts are also dotted around the city, so there is no need to go far for a caffeine fix.

Regarding food, expats can find flavours from around the world, including Italian, Mexican and Indian food as well as specialist vegetarian restaurants. Food stalls and trucks around the city cater for numerous Asian and European tastes, while some weekend food and farmers' markets have become Christchurch institutions.

Nightlife in Christchurch

The nightlife in Christchurch is bustling, with various quirky restaurants, pubs and craft-beer bars lining the city's streets since the 2011 earthquakes. The suburbs of Addington, Fendalton, Merivale and Riccarton, all near the city centre, are popular nightlife areas.

As the art capital of New Zealand, there are also plenty of shows, comedy clubs and art cinemas to keep expats busy at night. The city's art scene is thriving, with numerous galleries and museums showcasing the work of local and international artists.

Outdoor activities in Christchurch

With the expansive Hagley Park and the Botanical Gardens to the west of the city centre, Christchurch is ideally situated for outdoor pursuits while still offering the convenience of city life. The beautiful coastal suburb of Sumner in the southeast, the Port Hills to the south, and the stunning Banks Peninsula beyond are a few of the city's most exciting outdoor adventure hotspots. 

Expats who enjoy outdoor activities will be delighted with the abundance of hiking and biking trails and opportunities for skiing and snowboarding in the winter months. Many ski sites are an easy drive from Christchurch, and hiking and mountain-biking areas such as McLeans Island, Bottle Lake and the Port Hills are all nearby. Taylors Mistake and New Brighton, two famous Christchurch beaches, are ideal spots to surf or paraglide.