Christchurch business is resilient in 2012

Businesses in Christchurch showed a remarkable resilience in the face of earthquakes, aftershocks, and the emergence of an altered city in 2012.
  • Image, Christchurch markets.

    Canterbury earthquakes

    At around 4am on 4 September 2010 an earthquake that was just over 7 on the Richter scale occurred near Christchurch. It caused substantial damage to the city and Canterbury region. The following year, on 22 February, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake occurred near Christchurch and Lyttelton. This earthquake was considered an aftershock of the 2010 quake. It killed 185 people, damaged properties, homes, and the region’s infrastructure – as well as injuring several thousand Cantabrians and visitors.

    Resilience following earthquakes

    You would expect the number of businesses to dramatically decrease in the face of these quakes – because of people leaving the region. However, the number of businesses has remained relatively constant. In February 2011, there were 37,340 business locations operating within the Christchurch city area. In February 2012, 36,420 businesses were operating, which was a small 2.5 percent drop from February 2011.

    The number of employees engaged by Christchurch businesses in February 2012 also fell, but only by 0.8 percent (from 185,600 to 184,000). A detailed analysis of Christchurch data revealed significant variation across industries, and there were marked differences in how various areas of Christchurch fared following the disaster.

    More construction-related businesses but fewer cafes and bars

    As expected, the post-earthquake changes in businesses and employees were more pronounced in some industries than in others. The more-affected industries (at the detailed ANZSIC06 class level) in 2012 are listed below (data is for the whole Christchurch city):

    Painting and decorating services 

    • business locations up 37.5 percent (to 470) 
    • employees up 83.3 percent to (1,200). 

    House construction 

    • business locations up 11.2 percent (to 1,190) 
    • employees up 49.3 percent (to 2,200).

    Other construction services

    • business locations up 14.5 percent (to 130)
    • employees up 38.9 percent (to 500).

    Auxiliary insurance services

    • business locations up 19.8 percent (to 280)
    • employees up 13.0 percent (to 500).

    Cafes and restaurants

    • business locations down 19.1 percent (to 550)
    • employees down 14.7 percent (to 4,700).

    Pubs, taverns, and bars

    • business locations down 13.5 percent (to 120)
    • employees down 3.1 percent (to 1,300).


    • business locations down 8.8 percent (to 320)
    • employees down 35.9 percent (to 2,100).

    Christchurch CBD badly affected but more business in the west

    The Christchurch central business district (CBD), consisting of three area units (Cathedral Square, Avon Loop, and Hagley Park) had a high concentration of businesses and was severely affected by the February 2011 earthquake.

    The eastern suburbs of Christchurch also sustained more damage and disruption than suburbs in the west.

    Analysis of data for across the CBD, and eastern and western suburbs revealed how differently the business demographics changed for these three areas over this 12-month period.

    The CBD had 5,710 business locations operating in February 2011. By February 2012, this number had fallen 34.6 percent. In February 2011, the eastern suburbs had 11,190 business locations, but in February 2012, this had fallen 1.7 percent. By contrast, the western suburbs had 6.1 percent more business locations at February 2012 (21,690).

    A similar pattern operated for the number of employees engaged by businesses in these three area. The CBD had a 38.4 percent decrease in the number of employees between February 2011 and February 2012 (from 47,500 down to 29,300). The employee number in the eastern suburbs, in February 2012, was at almost the same level as in February 2011 (32,900). By contrast, the western suburbs, which had 105,100 employees in February 2011, had added another 15.9 percent by February 2012.

    Graphs showing the number of business locations and employees in Christchurch by zone.

    Source: Statistics New Zealand

The eastern suburbs of Christchurch sustained more damage and disruption than suburbs in the west.
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