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Browse the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand
Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Commercial Importance

Christchurch is the principal commercial centre of a great primary producing province, Canterbury. This province is the chief grain and grass-seed-growing area of New Zealand and has a large sheep population. It was on the wealth and associated economic activities of this agricultural and pastoral basis that Christchurch was dependent. In post-war years, however, there has been industrial expansion of a very diversified nature and today there are large engineering, clothing, fertiliser, rubber, electrical, footwear, and furniture industries there. Much of the city's light industry is located in the vicinity of the Christchurch railway station, Waltham, and Sydenham. This centre-city industry is of major importance, since it provides work for about 42 per cent of all industrial workers in Christchurch. The heavier industries – fertiliser, industrial machinery, cable, industrial gas, freezing works, tyre and box manufacturing – are strung out along the Main Trunk railway to the west and north of the city in the suburbs of Hornby, Islington, Sockburn, and Riccarton. Occupying as it does a central location on the east of the South Island, Christchurch is a natural junction for the north-south and east-west communications. Both the main north and south roads and the South Island Main Trunk railway pass through the city, which is also linked by rail to Lyttelton and the West Coast. Road traffic to the port of Lyttelton was once forced to cross the Port Hills (13 miles), but a road tunnel completed early in 1964 provides an easier route. As with the other main ports in New Zealand, petroleum products rank as the primary import (348,851 tons), followed by manures (77,825 tons), iron and steel (54,218 tons), and fresh fruit (20,844 tons). The total overseas imports amount to 741.918 tons. The importance of sheep to Canterbury is exemplified by the predominance of their products in the exports. Frozen meat (48,654 tons), wool (34,091 tons), and tallow (10,837 tons) were the three major exports from a total of 143,261 tons. During the year ended 31 December 1963, 516 overseas vessels used the port, accounting for a shipping tonnage of 2,178,191 tons, while 824 coastal and intercolonial vessels totalled some 1,361,200 tons.

There are two airports in close proximity to Christchurch, the Royal New Zealand Air Force Station at Wigram, 5 miles south of the city, and Christchurch International Airport at Harewood, 6 miles to the north-west. For the year ended 31 December 1964, 43,629 overseas and 441,581 domestic passengers used the airport, while the total number of aircraft movements was 81,724. Some 35,762,153 lb of freight and 1,689,555 lb of mail were handled at the airport. Operating from this airport each summer are the United States “Operation Deep Freeze” aircraft which make regular flights to and from the Antarctic base at McMurdo Sound. The “Deep Freeze” 1964 season commenced on 30 September 1963 and concluded on 1 March 1964. The traffic figures were: 1,603 outward passengers and 1,590 inward passengers; 994,125 lb outward cargo and 168,084 lb inward cargo.

The nucleus of the educational facilities of Christchurch is the University of Canterbury, situated in the heart of the city. Comprising six faculties – arts, science, commerce, engineering, music, fine arts, and law-and 24 departments, Canterbury University has the major engineering school in the country. Due to the rapid expansion in university education, the present buildings are becoming inadequate. The University is therefore being rebuilt on a site at Ilam, well out of town. Because emphasis was placed by the founders of the province on education, Christchurch is well endowed with secondary schools, not only public, but private ones as well. At the entrance to the Botanic Gardens, across Rolleston Avenue from the University, is the Canterbury Museum, whose special features include the Stead Collection of birds and a fine reconstruction of a Christchurch street, together with shops and houses, as it appeared in the early days of the settlement. Backing on to the museum is the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, which has a comprehensive range of the work of artists of the Canterbury school.