Christchurch celebrities share what they love about metropolis

This series will profile the people who make Christchurch tick, give a voice to the region’s diverse communities and debate how the city can best accommodate its growing number of residents while examining the issues facing the city. Video / NZ Herald

After the devastating earthquakes in 2010-11, 20,000 people packed their bags and left Christchurch. It took six years for the population to recover but now an estimated 392,000 people call the city home.

Incorporating Banks Peninsula, the Port Hills and a number of beaches, there are plenty of reasons to live in New Zealand’s Garden City.

From resilience to new spaces, well-known Kiwis from the city share why it is that they love Christchurch.

Richie McCaw

Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.  Photo / Getty Images
Former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw. Photo / Getty Images

The former All Blacks captain told the Herald there’s “quite a few things” he loves about Christchurch.

“I’ve been here over half my life now, It’s very much home. It’s a big city but it’s not big, it’s got that right balance

“It doesn’t take too long to get anywhere but you’ve got everything you need right here. I love the fact that it’s pretty quick to get out to the outdoors. The Port Hills, Banks Peninsula, all of those things are right on your doorstep.”

McCaw said representing the area in rugby is a special experience.

“When you represent the province or the Crusaders, the support you get from outside the region, being called one-eyed, you really feel that and when you’re representing that, it’s a very cool thing to be involved with.

“We say once you’re a Crusader and put on that jersey, it means something. I’ve had some great experiences pretty living here, it’s a cool place to live.”

Jason Gunn

New Zealand radio and TV personality Jason Gunn.  Photo / Martin Hunter
New Zealand radio and TV personality Jason Gunn. Photo / Martin Hunter

Gunn said one thing that sets Christchurch apart is the resilience of its residents.

“We’ve been through a lot and that has brought out the best in us. We had the horrific day in our mosques and the quakes. It brought us together. I like how we get ourselves through.

“It is our resilience and our ability to take uncertainty. So many people underestimate Christchurch, to their peril, and I just love that.”

He said he also likes finding new spaces in the city to explore.

“I get so excited, I find something new every day. I didn’t dislike the old but I like the new.

“I love the Crusaders, there’s a culture here. It doesn’t make sense that we’re able to do things we shouldn’t be able to. Look at the numbers.”

The new Te Pae Convention Center is a real asset to the city, Gunn said.

“It’s the best thing I’ve ever been in and it’s in my town. I don’t need to travel the rest of the world.”

Mike Peru

Christchurch businessman Mike Pero.  Photo / Mike Pero
Christchurch businessman Mike Pero. Photo / Mike Pero

The local businessman told the Herald he likes that Christchurch is an international city but isn’t too big.

“It has a lot going for it, you can be anywhere within 15 minutes in Christchurch and then you can still jump on a plane and be in Sydney in the same time as a plane out of Auckland so you’re still international.

“I can be in Dubai from here in the same time as an Auckland flight.”

Pero said it goes without saying that the property market in the city is a bonus as well.

‘You get better value for money for property. Sometimes half the price, in some cases, than Auckland.”

The rebuild of the central city seemed slow at first but has taken off recently, Pero said.

“Boy, a lot has happened over the last five years with all the inner-city development. Yes, we lost a lot of history but now we’ve got a very colorful city with a lot to do.

“A lot of people weren’t sure, we were a wee bit stunned after the earthquakes but the confidence has come back and I think Christchurch is doing particularly well.”

Simon Barnett

Newstalk ZB radio host Simon Barnett.  Photo / NZME
Newstalk ZB radio host Simon Barnett. Photo / NZME

The Newstalk ZB host described Christchurch as a “vibrant and very modern” city post earthquake.

“I think whilst the earthquake was an absolute unmitigated disaster, one thing if there is a benefit to come out of it, is that it allowed the city to regenerate in a very modern way.

“They’ve managed to blend the preserved architecture, the likes of the old government building, the arts center and the museum and the very modern architecture of the justice precinct, the crossing, the Riverside Market.”

Barnett said he also loves the meandering nature of the city.

“The trams that run through the city now . . . It’s just quite a lovely experience because you go through New Regent St and you get a good look at the city post-earthquake and again that modern and historic blend.”

Christchurch is also a very convenient place to live, he said.

“It’s a very easy city to get around. One of the lovely things for me personally is that everything is very easily accessed. You’ve got Mt Hutt ski field about an hour away and the wonderful alpine village of Hanmer Springs about an hour and a half away.

“You’ve got that lovely crisp sense of altitude and that’s only an hour and a half from the center of Christchurch.”

Jacob Yikes

Christchurch street artist Jacob Yikes.  Photo / Fiksate Gallery
Christchurch street artist Jacob Yikes. Photo / Fiksate Gallery

Yikes said his favorite thing about Christchurch is seeing how the city is changing and its accessibility.

The street artist has lived in the city all his life and said it was an exciting time for artists after the earthquakes.

“It became a hub for large-scale murals and things like that. It was a starting point for me to regain my love for the city.

“After the quakes, many areas needed a lot of love. It was very easy to find spaces to work on. In the beginning, it was a bit of a free-for-all.”

One of Jacob Yikes murals located on the side of the Hutcheson Ford building on Christchurch's Colombo St.  Photo / Supplied
One of Jacob Yikes murals located on the side of the Hutcheson Ford building on Christchurch’s Colombo St. Photo / Supplied

Yikes said he also likes the ease of Christchurch.

“I find it more of an easy pace than other places in New Zealand. But it is forever changing, the city is continuing to grow and change.”

He doesn’t have any plans to leave the garden city, he said.

“I have two children and that’s one reason I wouldn’t at this stage.

“A lot of my peers moved away and are moving back now because it is such a great place to raise a family. It’s also pretty well set up for murals which is how I make a living.

James Daniels

Co-host of the afternoon show on Newstalk ZB, James Daniels.  Photo / George Heard
Co-host of the afternoon show on Newstalk ZB, James Daniels. Photo / George Heard

Daniels said being a New Brighton boy is “fundamental” to him.

“I love Christchurch because it’s home. I’ve seen big changes in our community over my lifetime.”

The Newstalk ZB host said back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it was the place to be.

“When that point of difference ended, Brighton was not only affected by the concentration of consumerism through the malls but also the societal and demographic changes including ethnicity, across the board; it became a backwater.”

But fast forward to today, there is a boom in building along the beach, he said.

“There are numerous houses, townhouses and apartments in various stages of completion, investment is being made in the commercial zone which is about to be redeveloped, so it looks like Brighton is about to boom again.”

Angela Petty

Christchurch Olympian Angela Petty.  Photo / Alisha Lovrich
Christchurch Olympian Angela Petty. Photo / Alisha Lovrich

Petty is a middle-distance runner who has competed in the Olympic and Commonwealth Games. One of her favorite things about Christchurch is how flat it is.

“You go to other places and you don’t realise how flat it [Christchurch] is but then we’ve still got the hills so you can go and run in the hills if you want to and there are beautiful views from there as well.

“I love the vibe, the feeling in Christchurch. I feel like it’s a safe city despite having had earthquakes and things, It’s a nice place to live, people are friendly. I like the nature of it.”

Petty said she loves how the rebuild of the city center is going.

“I think how it is now compared to even a few years ago is pretty exciting.”

Angela Stone

Businesswoman and media personality Angela Stone.  Photo / Supplied
Businesswoman and media personality Angela Stone. Photo / Supplied

The businesswoman and media personality was born in Christchurch. She left as a teenager to pursue a modeling career overseas but returned to open her own modeling agency in the city.

She told the Herald that she loves the friends she has made in Christchurch as well as its consistency and how convenient everything is.

“You can be at the beach or a beautiful walk in 20 minutes, or a ski field in one hour. I love Hagley Park and the botanical gardens; it’s refreshing having such a big green space in an urban environment and somewhere to get fresh air and be around nature.”

Stone said the city also has a growing and diverse food scene.

“Christchurch is a lot more relaxed than other parts of New Zealand. It’s also a really proud city and has a strong sense of community despite its size. Raising children in Christchurch, especially Sumner, has been very special.”

The central city is looking “fantastic”, Stone said, and the vibe of the city is constantly changing.

“It’s really come alive in recent years. The architecture, planting and street art is flourishing. I love what they’re doing with areas like Welles St; there are some fun shops and hole-in-the-walls there and a bustling, modern feel.”

Mayor Lianne Dalziel

Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel.  Photo / George Heard
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Photo / George Heard

Dalziel was born and raised in Christchurch and has lived there all of her life.

She said she loves being in the center of the city where everything is within walking distance.

“I love the combination of old and new, as well as the fact that we’re big enough to have everything a bigger city has but small enough so you don’t get lost in the crowd,

“The fabulous Hagley Park, Botanic Gardens and the Ōtākaro Avon River are on my doorstep.”

Christchurch is an incredibly friendly city, Dalziel said, and fiercely proud of its sports teams.

“We’re not called one-eyed Cantabrians for nothing.”

Another positive about living in the garden city is having beaches close by as well as being one and a half hours from major ski fields.

“We have fantastic outdoor recreational facilities and we’re still building significant indoor facilities. We’ve got the best of all worlds.

“There is no comparison. It’s got a new energy that comes from the decision to face the river and to create a more people-friendly, vibrant urban centre.”

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