It’s been four years since the February earthquake that destroyed our beloved Christchurch, and if you read the headlines in the news these days, the negativity surrounding the rebuild can make these four years seem even longer. The truth of the matter is this: while there’s still a lot of work to do to get Christchurch back to normal, the city itself is recovering slowly, but surely. We can thank the Cantabrians that stuck it out and rebuilt their businesses, and those other Cantabrians and foreigners who saw the opportunity to create new businesses here in our emerging city.

Minding our own Business(es)

Christchurch’s businesses are on the road to recovery and the commercial property market is following close by. New commercial buildings are springing up every month with commercial properties such as the new Vodafone Building, the Kathmandu Building, and Craig’s Investment Partners House leading the charge. Why the sudden interest?

Well, it’s not sudden at all. Over the last four years CERA, the Christchurch Central Development Unit and small and big business have been working towards the rebuild that the media are finally starting to pay attention to. Right now Christchurch is playing the game of ‘Watch this Space’ as there are plenty of new developments planned within the next 18 months. One of the best things we can take from this is that less people are leaving the region and therefore more people are committing to making Christchurch a city worth living in.

Christchurch Businesses: Staunch as Ever

We don’t want to dwell on the past, but with so much negativity around the Christchurch rebuild, it’s time to remember exactly what our city and the businesses here went through. On September 4th at 4am in 2010 an earthquake that read 7 on the Richter scale hit just outside of Christchurch. While it caused substantial damage to the city and the region, it was nothing compared to the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that would follow in February 22, 2011. Considered a mere aftershock of the 2010 quake, this earthquake killed 185 people, damaged entire neighbourhoods and destroyed the region’s infrastructure.


Despite all of this adversity, businesses in Christchurch showed, and continue to show a remarkable resilience in the face of these two massive earthquakes, a multitude of large and small aftershocks, and a completely altered city.

Business as Usual in Christchurch

Most people expected the number of Christchurch businesses to dramatically fall in the wake of these devastating earthquakes. Why would anyone want to stay in city that has just been decimated? Even if your business had stayed upright through the shakes, what about your customers? The entire landscape of the city changed, affecting the day to day routines of all businesses, not matter what industry you were in.

Surprisingly, the number of businesses has remained fairly constant. Consider this: In February 2011, there were roughly 37,340 businesses operating in Christchurch. And in February 2012, 36,420 businesses were operating, which is only a small 2.5 percent drop. Considering that many businesses weren’t covered by insurance, it’s no wonder some of them had to close their doors.

Taking Care of Business

With the changing landscape of the city comes a changing landscape of commercial business. More businesses that deal with construction have popped up, not to mention individual contractors starting their own consultancy practices. The post-earthquake changes in businesses and employees have been more pronounced in some industries than in others, but we’re just happy that there are industries that are thriving in Christchurch such as:

  • Painting and decorating services
  • House construction
  • Consulting services
  • Insurance services
  • Cafes and restaurants
  • Pubs, taverns, and bars

Out with the Old and In with the New

Business development in Christchurch isn’t just a new trend for 2015. It’s been happening since 2011 with the creation of the Re:START Mall.

Start Over

The Re:START mall is a temporary mall built using colourful shipping containers on the earthquake-ravaged City Mall retail space in Cashel Street, just seven months after the February Earthquake. Since October 2011, Re:START has grown considerably, increasing from a mere 27 businesses at the opening to over 50 businesses today. In addition to the retail shops there are also market stalls, daily street performers and buskers during the week and on the weekends, making it a destination spot tourists visiting the region. It has been so popular that it has helped Christchurch make the top ten of Lonely Planet’s ‘must visit’ places in the world. Not bad for a bunch of containers! Created thanks to an interest free loan of $3,368,523 from the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust and another $300,000 in sponsorship from ASB, Re:START will continue to be an important part in the changing landscape of Christchurch during the rebuild.

Quality Street

Just recently the new New Regent Street was launched, reopening to retailers, and reinvigorating Christchurch shopping for both residents and tourists. The resurgence of interest for one of Christchurch’s most iconic streets is helping build more excitement for the new $85 million dollar Christchurch City Library being built just around the corner.

The New Central Library is currently expected to open in 2018 and will replace the old central library that was located in Gloucester Street that was severely damaged in the earthquakes. The new Central Library will have a modern cafe, a 200-seat community arena for events and concerts, an exhibition space for local artists, and multiple outdoor terraces and areas for families, children and youth.

In other positive news, the infamous Christchurch Tram will be back on the streets with an extended route that includes New Regent Street, as it was an original part of the route around the city.

The Future is Coming to Christchurch

While we’ve already reaped the benefits of the Re:START Mall and New Regent Street, we have a lot more to look forward to. From a state of the art retail precinct to an emotion stirring earthquake memorial, Christchurch is gearing up to be New Zealand’s top destination in a few years. Have a look at what the future holds…

Retail Precinct

The Retail Precinct will offer Cantabrians and our visiting tourists a world-class shopping and cultural experience that, while modelled after iconic parts of the retail worlds in London, New York City and Paris, will reflect the essence of modern Christchurch.

Situated south of The Square, this innovative retail precinct will be composed of High, Hereford and Lichfield Streets and our infamous Oxford Terrace. While remaining a distinct part of the Christchurch rebuild, the Retail Precinct will still be connected to other anchor projects in the area, such as the Te Papa Ōtākaro/Avon River Precinct, the Convention Centre Precinct, The Square, the Bus Interchange and the Justice and Emergency Services Precinct. As Christchurch continues to grow at a surprising rate, commercial property projects such as the Retail Precinct will become absolute cornerstones of our emerging city. And at Cowdy, we couldn’t be more excited for the future!

Lichfield Holdings

Now that businesses that relocated to the suburbs after the earthquakes are moving back into the centre, there are more opportunities for commercial property owners to create some attractive spaces to entice new tenants. Local investors, Lichfield Holdings Ltd, are building an incredible office space in the new Cashel Mall complex, where Whitcoulls, Shades Arcade and Old Weekly Press were previously located. The project features extensive ground floor retail, multi-levelled office space and a 1000m² green gathering and lunch space in the heart of the block.

Incorporating several laneways, ala Melbourne-style, the building will also include a glass atrium allowing for natural light to permeate the interior. The building is being constructed at more that 100% of the new Building Code Standard and will also be eco-friendly.

The Terrace

The first major rebuild development in the Christchurch central city promises to combine innovative urban design with an unbeatable location overlooking the Avon River. Based on Melbourne designs, The Terrace will be an example of master city planning combining European flair with Christchurch’s natural beauty. Beginning with Oxford Terrace, the Terrace will be the dynamic centre of Christchurch, heaving with office space, boutique hotels, artist studios and substantial car parking to support local and independent retailers and restaurants.

The first part of the project includes three new buildings facing onto Oxford Terrace and a fourth facing Hereford Street. When it’s completely finished the Terrace will encompass nine buildings in total along with, six laneways, a promenade and multiple bridges connecting different areas of the development. More than 10 elevators and several staircases will provide accessibility and choice, allowing disabled and wheelchair access.


There are incredible opportunities for businesses in Christchurch – get in touch with us today to see how we can help you with your commercial needs. As one of Christchurch’s longstanding businesses, we understand the landscape, the transformation and bright future of this brilliant city and we’re here to help you.

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It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached the four year anniversary of the Canterbury earthquakes that devastated our beloved city. As one of the original real estate agencies in Christchurch, we’ve seen a lot since we opened the Cowdy doors for business in 1979, but we never could have predicted the amount of destructions we saw, even in our many years of operating in Canterbury. And despite the trials and tribulations we’ve faced, and those that our dear friends and family are still facing through the changes to the city, we are deeply connected to Christchurch and we’re going to see this rebuild through to the end. After all, we’ve been in Christchurch for 36 years and we plan on being here for at least 36 years more!

We’ve learned a lot through the difficulties we’ve experienced over the last four years, and we need to look back to those first days of terror and uncertainty to see just how far we’re come.

Christchurch Property Matters

After the quakes of 2010-2011, many Cantabrians didn’t know where their property stood in the scheme of things. All sectors of the community struggled to understand what happened, but they all went through similar challenges and achievements as progress was made to start the rebuild. The property market itself was on shaky ground, so to speak, as no one knew how the catastrophic events were going to affect house sales and house prices. The outcome of a single day was hard enough to predict considering the hundreds of shakes that would rattle the homes and people still standing. Most of us just wanted to get through the day, much less start considering whether or not we were going to lose our life savings on the properties we owned. With time, all wounds heal. And as people from all over the world have come to Christchurch to help us with the rebuild, the property market has healed too, to the point where it’s actually thriving.

You win some, you lose some

After the 2011 earthquake, CERA stepped up and helped to map Christchurch into four zones: red, orange, green and white, with each colour representing the safety of the structure and determining whether or not the land was damaged beyond repair. Driving through the streets of Christchurch and seeing entire neighbourhoods marked with red stickers was enough to send a lot of staunch Cantabrians packing. Some house owners felt lucky enough to escape with their lives and sold their properties to government to free themselves financially to seek a new life elsewhere. Others have stayed on with the hope that their beloved family homes would and could be rebuilt. Close to 8000 of these family homes were red stickered. Many still stand in darkened streets waiting to be demolished while many more have already been taken down, changing the landscape and bringing a bit more hope to our city while the rebuild continues.

Seeing Red

While the ‘Residential Red Zone’ was met with much opposition from the community, it has been integral to the rebuild and to the red zone property owners themselves. This gave red zone property owners the chance they needed to move on with their lives. Once they had signed the sale and purchase agreement with the government, they were able to buy new, safer and more secure houses that would help them rebuild their lives. Close to 7000 property owners sold their homes to government for a staggering amount: $989 million. By the end of 2012 only 1300 of these properties had been demolished. Red zone land isn’t safe enough to be built upon again, so for now the cleared areas remain empty until long term decisions are made with regards to city planning.

Christchurch Earthquake Red Sticker

Solid ground? Solid gold!

Property owners in the Green Zone are obviously luckier as the land has been cleared as safe and houses can easily be repaired or rebuilt. CERA implemented Technical Categories to help home owners and contractors working on the rebuild to understand the land they were working with. These categories are important in a city like Christchurch that now has a known fault line as they help to describe how the land will perform in future earthquakes helping builders determine the foundation systems required for maximum safety.

There are three main categories and each of them have an effect on the property market in Christchurch:

  • Technical Category 1 (Grey Zone) indicates that land damage from liquefaction is unlikely in the future.
  • Technical Category 2 (Yellow Zone) indicates minor or moderate land damage.
  • Technical Category 3 (Blue Zone) indicates moderate to significant land damage.

According to CERA, roughly 28,000 of the homes in Christchurch as classified as Category 3 meaning there are a lot of people looking at serious repairs and, in some 10,000 cases, complete rebuilds. Values increase and decrease in relativity to the amount of damage the land in a certain area has sustained. Obviously properties situated in the Grey Zone are sitting pretty as they require the least work and future damage is less of a probability making it a great area for house sales.

The Yellow Zone isn’t lagging far behind even with the moderate damage that accompanies it, whereas the Blue Zone’s price sales have been declining steadily as more light is shed on the issues with the land there. Buyers also know that they can offer less for houses in areas that aren’t in high demand, so median prices drop as a result of this.

Christchurch earthquake road damage

But there’s good news

While some parts of Christchurch struggle with falling house prices and land problems, other areas are thriving. The best part about this is that it means our Christchurch residents are reconstructing their lives by reconstructing their homes. And this is great news for everyone!

As you know, the eastern suburbs were the hardest hit in both of the earthquakes, and this led to the displacement of many families and an increased demand for properties on the west side which was largely unscathed. This shortage of properties combined with a thriving sellers market resulted in a massive increase in property values which in turn has managed to drive up the total value throughout the Christchurch region.

Show me the money

As I’ve mentioned some suburbs are doing better than others and are worth keeping an eye on if you’re considering a move in 2015. Spots to watch are:

  • Hornby
  • Bryndwr
  • Papanui
  • Redwood

As buyers in this area are willing to pay a higher price for a guaranteed peace of mind. Places like

  • Hoon Hay
  • Northwood
  • Spreydon
  • Burnside

Are holding steady with a lot of buying and selling activity while Bryndwr, Parklands and Linwood have dropped significantly. There are suburbs in the east where prices have dropped so much that their sales volumes are the lowest they’ve ever been.

Get Outta Town!

While house values are rising within Christchurch, values are also increasing particularly in the Waimakariri and Selwyn Districts. Surprisingly, areas as far away as Timaru and Ashburton are also seeing a rise in property values, though not at such a rapid rate. Some people want to leave, and no one should judge them. We all react to catastrophic events differently, and for some Christchurch residents, their recovery comes in the form of a more drastic move. Who is to say they won’t move back once the rebuild is complete? We’ll be here to welcome them with open arms.

Plant growing

Build it and they will come…

There is an incredible amount of money being directed at Christchurch for the rebuild which enforces the rumour that Christchurch is going to be a world class city by 2025. New Zealand as a whole is going to benefit from the rebuild, and this will no doubt help to drive up housing values all over the country.

The innovative designers of our ‘Future Christchurch’ have created a detailed recovery plan that includes key projects to drive visitors and migrants to our vibrant city such as:

  • a convention centre to attract big business
  • a cultural centre to promote local heritage
  • a retail precinct featuring iconic Christchurch businesses
  • a health precinct for people to continue on their healing journey
  • a justice and emergency services precinct
  • a performing arts precinct to showcase our local artists
  • sports facilities for community engagement
  • transportation facilities to get around the city with ease and style

At the end of this rebuild it’s our dream for the people of Christchurch to reflect upon the earthquakes as an opportunity for transformation. And we’re proud to be a part of it.

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