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Christchurch is one of the largest cities in New Zealand and it is the largest city located on the country's South Island. Christchurch was named by the Canterbury Association in 1848 and it was officially established on July 31, 1856, making it the oldest city in New Zealand. The official Maori name for the city is Otautahi.
Christchurch has recently been in the news due to a large magnitude 6.3 earthquake that hit the region on the afternoon of February 22, 2011. The massive earthquake killed at least 65 people (according to early CNN reports) and trapped hundreds more in rubble. Phone lines were knocked out and buildings all over the city were destroyed - some of which were historic. In addition, many of Christchurch's roads were damaged in the earthquake and several areas of the city were flooded after water mains broke.
This was the second large earthquake to hit New Zealand's South Island in recent months. On September 4, 2010 a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hit 30 miles (45 km) west of Christchurch and damaged sewers, broke water and gas lines. Despite the earthquake's size however, there were no fatalities reported.
10 Geographic Facts About Christchurch
- It is believed that the Christchurch area was first settled in 1250 by tribes hunting the now-extinct moa, a large flightless bird that was endemic to New Zealand. In the 16th century, the Waitaha tribe migrated to the area from the North Island and began a period of war. Shortly thereafter however, the Waitaha were driven out of the area by the Ngati Mamoe tribe. The Ngati Mamoe were then taken over by the Ngai Tahu who controlled the region until Europeans arrived.
- In early 1840, whaling Europeans arrived and established whaling stations in what is now Christchurch. In 1848, the Canterbury Association was founded to form a colony in the region and in 1850 pilgrims began to arrive. These Canterbury Pilgrims has goals of building a new city around a cathedral and college like Christ Church, Oxford in England. As a result, the city was given the name Christchurch on March 27, 1848.
- On July 31, 1856, Christchurch became the first official city in New Zealand and it quickly grew as more European settlers arrived. In addition, New Zealand's first public railway was constructed in 1863 to make moving heavy goods from Ferrymead (today a suburb of Christchurch) to Christchurch quicker.
- Today the economy of Christchurch is based largely on agriculture from the rural areas surrounding the city. The largest agricultural products of the region are wheat and barley as well as wool and meat processing. In addition, wine is a growing industry in the region.
- Tourism is also a large part of Christchurch's economy. There are a number of ski resorts and national parks in the nearby Southern Alps. Christchurch is also historically known as a gateway to Antarctica as it has a long history of being a departure point for Antarctic exploration expeditions. For example, both Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton departed from the port of Lyttelton in Christchurch and according to Wikipedia.org, the Christchurch International Airport is a base for the New Zealand, Italian and United States Antarctic exploration programs.
- Some of Christchurch's other major tourist attractions include several wildlife parks and reserves, art galleries and museums, the International Antarctic Centre and the historic Christ Church Cathedral (which was damaged in the February 2011 earthquake).
- Christchurch is located in New Zealand's Canterbury region on its South Island. The city has coastlines along the Pacific Ocean and the estuaries of the Avon and Heathcote Rivers. The city has an urban population of 390,300 (June 2010 estimate) and covers an area of 550 square miles (1,426 sq km).
- Christchurch is a highly planned city that is based on a central city square that has four different city squares surrounding the central one. In addition, there is a parklands area in the center of the city and this is where the historic Cathedral Square, home of the Christ Church Cathedral, is located.
- The city of Christchurch is also geographically unique because it is one of the world's eight pairs of cities that have a near-exact antipodal city (a city on the exact opposite side of the earth). A Coruña, Spain is Christchurch's antipode.
- The climate of Christchurch is dry and temperate that is highly influenced by the Pacific Ocean. Winters are often cold and summers are mild. The average January high temperature in Christchurch is 72.5˚F (22.5˚C), while the July average is 52˚F (11˚C).
To learn more about Christchurch, visit the city's official tourism website.
CNN Wire Staff. (22 February 2011). "New Zealand City in Ruins After Quake Kills 65." CNN World. Retrieved from: //www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/02/22/new.zealand.earthquake/index.html?hpt=C1
Wikipedia.org. (22 February). Christchurch - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: //en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christchurch