The complete guide to moving to Christchurch

Updated: Jun 13, 2018

The gateway to the South Island, or Christchurch as it’s more officially known, is New Zealand’s oldest city and its second largest. It’s the biggest city on the South Island and with the Canterbury plains to the West and the Pacific waters to the East, Christchurch is a place that’s surrounded by natural beauty—making it easy to see why it has become such a popular location for both visitors and expats alike.

Setting up home

An appreciation for the outdoors is prevalent in those who reside in New Zealand, a fact that is especially true for those in Christchurch where the area is situated in a place of incredible natural diversity. But this wild terrain can be worrisome sometimes due to its proximity to the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’. Therefore, if you’re considering making Christchurch your home, it’s important that you’re aware of its location within a geographical area which is susceptible to high volcanic and seismic activity.

The last earthquake of significant magnitude in Christchurch was in February 2011. A date which left buildings, businesses and homes destroyed and much of the urban area in ruins. Evidently, the results of the quake were devastating, but the strength and speed in which the city began to repair itself has been a testament to the people making the reconstruction of the city happen.

When you look past the construction and cones, you’ll notice that there’s a very unique feel to Christchurch, sure the city still feels like it’s under construction (mainly because it is) but it’s also a city that’s creative and vibrant - and with new developments, comes new opportunities.

To rent or to buy:

With a coordinated plan for the reconstruction of buildings and homes which were destroyed, the city of Christchurch has emerged as a stronger, happier and more environmentally friendly development. But you’ll also notice that regardless of whether you’re looking to rent or buy, property comes at a premium.

The inner suburbs and city-centre locales are the most competitive markets and therefore property prices are higher with the average purchase price for a home in the Ilam, Fendalton and Merivale neighbourhoods averaging around $600,000. Whereas properties within the Somerfield and Spreydon areas will you set you back around $350,000. Property prices are gradually changing as more are built, but as many of the residents of Christchurch lost their homes, and others have only just finished rebuilding theirs - property is very much still a hot commodity.

When choosing a location to set up a home in, it’s important that you scout the area first to find one that’s suitable for the lifestyle which you’ll be looking to lead. This is more difficult in Christchurch as with each month that construction continues, it begins to feel like a new city, but typically the vibes of the local neighbourhoods are as follows:

Family Friendly:

Due to its tranquil beach-side location and short distance by car from the city centre, Sumner is a popular choice for families setting up home in Christchurch. It’s far enough away from the bustling centre that you can enjoy the serenity, but close enough that there are still plenty of local shops and eateries to choose from.


The long-term home of old-money, Fendalton has been Christchurch’s upmarket region for much of time gone by, so if you’re looking for a spacious property with avenues generously lined with trees, and a generous price tag to match—Fendalton is most definitely the area where you will find it.

Hip & Trendy:

Food, entertainment and shopping can all be found on Riccarton and Ilam making it the perfect place if you’re looking for a lively atmosphere.


Lyttelton was one of the places in Christchurch which sustained a severe amount of damage in 2011, but this charming artsy little port town still has much to be desired. After the 2011 quakes it was one of the first out-of-town areas to be scheduled for rebuilding and now instead of destruction, you’ll find cafes, coffee shops and the Lyttelton farmers market which runs every Saturday. Plus if you’re looking for a restaurant recommendation with a seasonal degustation menu - Lyttelton is where you’ll find Roots - one of New Zealand’s best restaurants.

Tips: If you’re looking to purchase property, shop around at auctions - it’s often where you’ll find the best deals!


With its 15% national tax and reliance on imports, the cost of living in New Zealand is high compared to other countries, but domestically - it fluctuates. The cost of living in Christchurch is comparatively low compared to Auckland with rent standing about 9.44% lower. The good news is that the water is treated, and therefore safe to drink so hydration is more than affordable... The bad news is that the majority of houses in New Zealand don’t have double-glazing and aren’t insulated, which means come winter time you may need to pop on another jumper!

Christchurch is typically quite cold in the winter, so when choosing a property to purchase or rent, you’ll want to check how efficient the building is at retaining heat. If you’re renting property in Christchurch, New Zealand has rental laws in place to ensure that the accommodation you are provided with is safe, clean and comfortable. The rights and responsibilities, of both the landlord and tenants, are governed by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), an act which is in place to ensure that there is protection for both parties. However, this act doesn’t specify the details of these homes, so when choosing a property it’s important to take elements such as windows, insulation and whether it has a heat pump etc installed, into consideration. Whilst these aspects may not be an issue during the warmer months, Christchurch gets cold during the winter and a house which isn’t very good at retaining heat can drastically alter the amount you end up paying for your household utility bills.

When it comes to New Zealand’s energy supply, the majority of electricity comes from wind, geothermal and hydroelectric generation and therefore is relatively clean. The majority of homes use gas for cooking, water and space heating, although wood burners are increasing in popularity as a way to heat the home. To set up or compare prices in Christchurch for utility bills you can use comparison companies such as Powerswitch or Glimp.

Getting around

The city centre of Christchurch is incredibly flat, which makes cycling around an absolute breeze - but on the off-chance you’re not looking to enjoy time in the great outdoors, there are a variety of transport options available.


If you’re looking for a scenic way to travel around the city of Christchurch, the tram is the way to go. Designed more for sightseeing, than public transport, the tram takes passengers on a one-way loop of the city-centre stopping at a total of 17 places. The tram operates every 15-20 minutes which makes it perfect for hopping on when you need a quick ride!


The creme de la creme of all transport options; taxis. They’re not the most cost-effective option when it comes to transport, but they’re there when you need them - and even when you don’t!


The bus service; the cheapest and most extensive public transport option! The bus service in Christchurch covers pretty much all of the area’s suburbs, together with the local attractions so if you arm yourself with a timetable - there will be no place you can’t get to! Just remember to signal if you’d like the driver to stop as they don’t always do so at the quieter stops!


Last but not least - there’s the trusty car. With Hanmer Springs and Akaroa short distances away, a vehicle of your own is perfect if you’re looking to get around Christchurch and even further afield. There are options in Christchurch to rent or purchase a vehicle, or if you’re looking for information on how to transport your beloved vehicle over from Australia, you can find our comprehensive moving vehicles and motorbike guide.

School Options

When it comes to their education system, New Zealand pride themselves on delivering an education system which is both responsive and fair. The New Zealand education system is made up of a combination of schools which are either state, state integrated (which means partially funded) or private—which costs around $14,000 per year.

In Christchurch and the surrounding areas alone, there are over 150 schools which serve around 60,000 children. The school age in Christchurch starts between the ages of 5 and 6 years old, with each child having to be legally registered at a school by their 6th birthday. School is an everyday occurrence between Monday and Friday and the majority of schools are zoned. This means that each school has a surrounding radius which is classified as their ‘catchment’ zone. This can be specified by area or mileage, and if a child lives within a particular school’s zone, they’ll be automatically offered a place at that school.

There are thirteen years in the New Zealand school system and once these are completed your child may wish to pursue further education. Christchurch has a number of higher education institutions available, which includes: Lincoln University, the University of Canterbury, the University of Otago Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.



If you’re moving to Christchurch from Australia, and you are a permanent citizen or resident of Australia, you do not need a visa to live or work in New Zealand.


Due to the Social Security Agreement (SSA) between New Zealand and Australia, if you are eligible for your Australian aged-pension you can claim it in New Zealand as part of the above agreement.


For Australians there are two types of healthcare available depending on your circumstance:

  • If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident and you plan to stay for at least two years continually, you will need to register with the Primary Health Organisation when you are living in New Zealand and this will grant you eligibility to receive the full range of publicly funded healthcare as and when needed.
  • If you’re an Australian citizen or permanent resident and you don’t plan to stay in New Zealand for at least two years continually, you will only be eligible to receive the immediately necessary hospital services - which includes pharmaceuticals and maternity services. Any non-immediate services, such as primary health care consultations, will need to be paid for by yourself.

Everyday Life

Recreational activities

In Christchurch, there’s plenty to do with marine life, water sports and wineries right on your doorstep—and if you’re looking to gain some historical perspective, Christchurch has its share of museums. There are museums dedicated to the history of the air force, the history of the Maori and Colonial people and the history of the earthquakes which devastated the area. There are also botanical gardens to wander around, parks to play in, and epic viewpoints, such as Ports Hill, to take it all in from. So if you like being outdoors in your free time, then you’re very much in luck!

Alternatively, if you’re looking to go further afield you could hop aboard the TranzAlpine Train. Travelling across a distance of 139 miles, the TranzAlpine Train covers an incredibly scenic route between Christchurch and Greymouth. The train route takes just under five hours, (an hour and a half longer than it takes by car) and takes the picturesque journey past the Canterbury Plains and the Waimakariri River along the main South line, before turning onto the Midland line which passes through the Southern Alps and Waimakariri River Gorge via the Otira Tunnel before stopping in Greymouth.


Whilst Christchurch has begun to rebuild much of the city which was destroyed after 2011’s Earthquake, there is still a great amount of work to be completed. There are vast employment opportunities available within construction and carpentry industries, with a huge demand for engineers, surveyors and skilled tradesmen such as; plasterers, painters and project managers.

To help with their rebuild plan, Christchurch has set up a list called the ‘Canterbury Skills Shortage List’ which specifies the full range of occupations that are currently needed in order to help get Christchurch back into a place of economic recovery. The full list can be found here and lists details of both the occupation and the qualifications required in order to fulfil that role. Those who meet the criteria listed and can secure a job offer prior to moving will be well-placed to secure a visa which enables them to work temporarily (or permanently in some cases) in New Zealand.

But whilst the main employment focus is on construction and carpentry - there are still plenty of opportunities available in other industries. After Auckland, Christchurch is New Zealand’s second-largest manufacturing centre and in addition to this, Dairy farming, meat processing, cropping and agriculture are huge business. Plus if you fancy yourself as a sommelier or know a thing or two about wine, the wine industry is developing rapidly! If you’d like to look for a job prior to moving to Christchurch, New Zealand has two main job sites: and