Christchurch's central city is the most important location for business and commercial activity, including the concentration of office and retail workers.

Before the 2011 earthquakes, the largest concentration of the city's office and retail workers was located in the central city.



Key findings

Total employment and businesses in the Four Avenues Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

At February 2018, the total employment in the Four Avenues numbered 39,500 employees. There were 3,900 business units located within the Four Avenues. Further information.

Change in employment over time Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Employment in the Four Avenues grew from 46,000 to 51,300 employees between 2000 and 2010.

As a result of the earthquakes, the Four Avenues lost 22,400 employees to reach a low of 28,880 in 2012.

Since then the employment in the Four Avenues has increased by 10,620. Further information.

Proportion of Christchurch employment in Four Avenues Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

In 2018, 18% of the city's employment was located in the Four Avenues.

This was over 27% before the earthquakes. Further information.

Type and location of employment Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Since the earthquakes, all industrial groupings have seen an increase in both the number and share of employees located within the Four Avenues, although all of them have not returned to pre earthquake levels. Further information.

Turnover of Four Avenues businesses No change

Overall, average annual employment turnover (business births plus deaths, as a proportion of total employment) is similar to what it was before the earthquakes (3.5% since 2012). Further information.

Movement of businesses to and from Four Avenues  Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Since 2013, the central city has gained a net 2100 employees from existing businesses relocating to the Four Avenues.

New businesses opening in the Four Avenues have added a further net 1800 employees. Further information.

Perceptions of operating business in central city.  Snapshot

57% of businesses from the Central City Business survey said that general business conditions had improved in the last 12 months. Further information.

Total employment and businesses in the Four Avenues

At February 2018, there were 3,900 businesses located within the Four Avenues, which was two thirds of the 2010 count of 6,000.

Employment in the Four Avenues grew slowly from 46,000 employees at February 2000 to 54,000 in 2005 just before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). From this peak, employment in the Four Avenues declined to 51,300 by February 2010, several months before the 2010-2011 Canterbury Earthquake sequence.

The impact of the earthquakes can be seen in the 2012 year, with a loss of 22,420 employees from 2010 to reach a low of 28,900. Since 2012, employment in the Four Avenues has increased to 39,500 in February 2018, which is around three quarters of the pre-earthquake employment level.

The impact of the earthquakes on the Four Avenues business environment was geographically distinct, with much of the employment loss associated with areas with the highest damage. This was mainly in the commercial core: generally the area located between the Avon River to the west, Kilmore and Peterborough Streets to the north, Madras Street  to the east, and St Asaph Street to the south.

This area was cordoned off and parts had restricted access for at least a year following the earthquakes. The majority (84%) of the employment loss occurred within this part of the Four Avenues. Since 2012, this area has received 43% of the growth in Four Avenues employment. 

Employment in the central city area outside of the cordon area decreased by 16% following the earthquakes. In February 2018, this area reached the highest employment total since 2000, at 31,450 employees.

Although this area generally maintained its level of employment, there have been changes to the distribution and composition of employment in these areas (see section below on the change in location and type of employment).

Proportion of Christchurch employment

The proportion of Christchurch city's employment located in the Four Avenues had been declining before the earthquakes, from 30% in 2001 to 27% in 2009. After the earthquakes, this fell to 15% and has since increased to 18.3% in 2018.

Business numbers have followed a similar trend, but at a lower level reflecting the higher proportion of larger businesses in the Four Avenues. Since the earthquakes, the proportion of Christchurch city's businesses located in the Four Avenues has declined from 16% to around 9% and has increased slightly over the last couple of years to 9.3%, a much slower increase than in the proportion of employment meaning that the majority of businesses moving to the central city are larger employers.

Change in the type and location of Four Avenues employment

The proportion of Christchurch employment located in the four avenues varies by different groups of industries. Before the earthquakes, 50% of the city's accommodation employment was located within the four avenues, while 30% of the hospitality employment and 'other' employment was in the four avenues.

Accommodation and hospitality industries in the four avenues had maintained a stable proportion of the city's employment before the earthquakes. Both of these suffered significant employment losses as a result of the earthquakes. Four avenues employment in accommodation declined by almost 90% from 1790 to 224, and employment in hospitality declined by 80%, from around 3000 to 640. 

Both of these industries have made significant recoveries in the four avenues, as new accommodation and hospitality businesses have opened or re-opened. Since 2012, there have been an additional 666 accommodation employees, and 1151 additional hospitality employees in the four avenues. However, they are still only half of the pre-earthquake level of employment for these industries.

Industrial activity has been moving away from the four avenues since 2000, and is likely to continue to follow this trend in the long term, although in recent years it has been buoyed by the construction sector. However even with this growth, central city employment is half of what it was in 2000 and only makes up 5% of the city's total industrial employment.

Before the earthquakes, new office and retail had been developed at a greater rate in suburban areas than the central city. Despite this, around a half of the city's office and one quarter of the city's retail employment was within the four avenues. 

Pre-earthquake office employment peaked in 2008 at 23,400, an increase of 5700 from February 2000. By 2010, this had declined 21,200. Following the earthquakes, office employment in the four avenues fell by 13,600 to a low of 9800 in 2012. It has since increased to 16,300 in 2018.

Retail employment in the four avenues between 2000 and 2005 increased from 4500 to 5200. The next five years saw the number of retail employees decline by 17% to 4260 in February 2010. The earthquakes resulted in a 41% loss in retail employment in the central city, falling to 2500 in 2013, but by 2018 was around 24% lower than the pre-earthquake level.

Turnover and movement of businesses in the Four Avenues

Between 2001 and 2010, new businesses starting up in the Four Avenues created 9050 new jobs, while during the same period business closures caused an employment loss of almost 9400. This resulted in a net loss of 350 central city employees over the 10 year period.

Following the earthquakes, there was a net loss of central city employment of 5100. Since 2013, there has been a net employment gain of 1800.

Before the earthquakes, the average annual employment turnover (business births plus deaths, or startups plus closures) as a percentage of the total employment was 3.6%; since 2012 this has declined slightly to 3.5%.

Industries with higher levels of turnover since the earthquakes include Financial and Insurance Services (26%, compared with 4.5% before the quakes), and Accommodation and Food Services (9.7%, compared with 5.7% before the quakes). Note both of these industries are dominated by the high number of businesses opening rather than closing within the Four Avenues, and the resulting net gain in employees since the earthquakes. This is reflected in the higher turnover levels.

Between 2002 and 2010, the Four Avenues gained 4450 employees from businesses which had moved from other parts of Christchurch and New Zealand, and lost 6900 employees in businesses that moved away from the Four Avenues. This was a net loss of around 2500 employees due to businesses relocating to locations outside of the Four Avenues.

The earthquakes resulted in around 1600 businesses moving out of the Four Avenues taking 13,750 employees with them; 98% of this employment went to other parts of Christchurch while 2% went outside of Christchurch. In addition, around 4000 employees moved within the Four Avenues as a result of the earthquakes. 

In the two years following the earthquakes, around 70% of the loss in Four Avenues employment was due to businesses closing, whereas the other 30% was due to  businesses relocating to locations outside of the Four Avenues.

Since 2013, the Four Avenues has gained a net 2100 employees due to businesses relocating to the Four Avenues, and gained a net 1800 employees due to new businesses opening (compared with businesses closing).

Operating businesses in the central city

In 2018, a quarter of businesses that participated in the Central City Business survey, agreed or strongly agreed that their business had traded better in the last 12 months compared to the 12 months prior to that. 28% of participants said their business had not performed better in the last 12 months compared to the previous 12 months. 

57% of participants said general business conditions in the central city over the last 12 months had improved. It is likely that trading will continue to improve as more businesses return and people move to the central city, resulting in increased foot traffic. 

In 2018, the majority of businesses that participated in the survey said they planned on continuing to operate in the central city (68%). 18% said there was some or a strong possibility that they may close or relocate their business outside of the central city. 

The main challenges or disadvantages of operating a business in the central city were:

  • Poor public perception of the central city (79%)
  • Lack of people living, working and visiting the central city (79%)
  • People not aware of what's available in the central city (79%)

Please note: Caution should be used when considering the results for the 2018 Central City Business survey due to low responses. 

Further information

Please email for further information.

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