Christchurch city fringe suburbs see huge growth 10 years since earthquake

11:39 am on 19 February 2021

As we approach the 10 year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, the impact of that day continues to be felt differently depending on which part of the city people live in.

In the second of a two-part story, RNZ takes a look at the city's outskirts where families started their new lives after large areas of the city were red-zoned.

Read part one here.

Rolleston town sign

Rolleston town sign Photo: RNZ / Rebecca O'Sullivan

The outskirts of Christchurch have seen huge growth since the earthquake, with councils struggling to keep up with building consents for new homes.

After the 22 February 2011 earthquake thousands of people left the city - many to escape for a few weeks while aftershocks still rocked the city, but many moved away permanently.

Stats NZ data shows that between 2010 and 2021 the population of Christchurch dropped by 21,000.

With houses ruined and large areas of the city red-zoned, people looked to the outskirts of the city to start their new lives.

Paul Stokes and his family lived in Avonside on the east of Christchurch for 27 years, but the earthquake destroyed their 120-year-old home.

"I remember driving home after the earthquake and our street was flooded so I parked as close as I could, put my gumboots on and walked to our place - the dog was waiting for me at the front gate.

"Yeah the house wasn't the best, it was pretty damaged from the September quake and the February one topped it off really," he said.

The family did not want to leave their home but after it was red-zoned, they had no choice.

"It was a long fight with EQC they wanted to fix the house but the insurance company said they wouldn't pay to rebuild it - so it was all a bit of mess but once EQC settled and paid us out we moved out to Rolleston.

"It was hard leaving our little cottage, we made it our home and we were close to the Avon where we went fishing and kayaking, we just loved the established trees and birdsong - you don't get that out here in Rolleston."

Stokes said thinking about the last 10 years brings back a lot of hard memories and gives him goosebumps but he was happy the family moved to Selwyn and started fresh.

"We're established out here now, we've made friends and we're on solid ground when there is a shake you can hear it but the pendant lights in the kitchen don't even move."

Christchurch's red zone.

The bumpy roads of Brooklands lead to empty cul de sacs and vacant land plots in the red zone. File photo Photo: RNZ/Conan Young

Selwyn Mayor Sam Broughton who was a councillor at the time still remembers the influx of people moving to Selwyn.

"Selywn was a place where people who wanted to leave Christchurch at the time but not leave the connections they had in the city could just move 20 to 30 minutes down the road.

"Because we didn't have much damage from the February quake it was still sort of business as usual out here so it was a good escape for people," he said.

Selwyn is now so popular it is hard to buy land to build new homes. The local council issued over 2700 building consents last year.

Broughton said it did not look like things would slow down anytime soon.

"Since November we've received over 13 new plan changes for 11,000 new homes, that level of change and growth has been exactly what we've experienced over the last 10 years.

"And it's continuing. We're seeing a lot of developers and housing companies expressing they want land faster and when sections do go on the market they are getting snapped up very quickly."

North of Christchurch in the Waimakariri District - it is a similar situation.

Since 2013 the population has grown by over 14,000 to 64,000 people. In 10 years its expected to swell to 78,000.

Mayor Dan Gordon said they were still seeing plenty of people moving there from Christchurch.

"It's becoming very popular to live here especially post-Covid, in fact, you would find it hard to buy a home here, in the Ravenswood subdivision near Woodend just before Christmas they had 120 people lined up for 46 sections that were being released to the market."

The Waimakariri Council issued 164 building consents in December, 74 percent more than the same time in 2019.

Gordon said the district provided amazing outdoor activities for people looking for a change in lifestyle.

"Every area has its benefits but out here it's a great mix of lifestyle from the mountains to the sea we have everything in between for people to experience."

Both the Selwyn and Waimakariri districts are projecting growth to continue. New motorways now connect the areas to Christchurch meaning shorter commute times to the central city.

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