New Zealand's main source of income remains its exports, and tourism sector. In order to remain competitive, it is critical that Christchurch's business sector is innovative and forward thinking in these areas.

A critical mass of innovative key business sectors

Creating a critical mass and specialisation in key sectors can be achieved through encouraging industry clusters to develop so smaller individual businesses can work together to share innovation and reduce costs.  This in turn enables these businesses to be more competitive in local and overseas markets.

Key points

  • The high tech industries sector has steadily increased from 4000 employees in 2000, reaching at 10,400 employees in early 2015. Engineering design and consultancy services, and computer system design and related services experienced the biggest increases since 2011.
  • The manufacturing and wholesale trade sectors peaked in 2005 with 41,000 employees. Since then, employment has declined in the sector to 34,440 employees in 2015.  Manufacturing has been declining nationally since 2000.
  • Employment in Construction Industry has doubled as a result of the rebuild with 23,710 employed in 2015, an increase of 12,400 since 2011.  MBIE estimate that there were 31,000 workers in the top 62 construction related occupations in Canterbury for the rebuild in December 2015 compared with 15,000 before the earthquakes.
  • The healthcare and social assistance sector is now the largest in Christchurch, passing manufacturing in 2010. In 2015 it had about 25,000 employees, an increase of 29% since 2000. 
  • Employment in the retail sector peaked in Christchurch City in 2008 with 21,680 employees. Employment then decreased by 10% until 2012 before gradually increasing to 20,690 employees in 2015.

Employment in High Tech Industries

Employment in High Tech Industries graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame


Employment in Manufacturing & Wholesale Trade

Manufacturing & Wholesale Trade graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame


Employment in Construction

 Employment in Construction graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame


Employment in Health & Social Assistance

 Employment in Health & Social Assistance graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Longitudinal Business Frame


More detail and information

Canterbury Job Matching report: This report by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provides a quarterly summary of employment trends relating to the Canterbury earthquake rebuild.

The Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) 2006 is used to compile and analyse industry statistics in New Zealand and Australia.

CDC Innovation: CDC Innovation is a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) supported initiative to accelerate the commercialisation of innovation in Canterbury.

Christchurch Economic Development Strategy: The Christchurch Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) identifies long term growth goals and priorities to 2031 that will create a stronger economy and better quality of life.

A globally competitive business sector

In order to generate wealth both locally and nationally, we need to be exporting products and services that result in a net gain in wealth, or attract additional visitor spending. Although essential, providing products and services domestically does not increase the wealth of the nation, unless it reduces the demand for imports. To be successful exporters, our businesses need to be innovative and efficient. Part of that comes down to the supporting infrastructure and business environment the Council is able to provide.

Key points

  • Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Canterbury has grown by 152% since 2000 to reach $32 billion in the year to March 2016. GDP per capita has doubled in the same period to $55,700 per person, which is slightly higher than the national GPD per capita of $54,200.
  • The ANZ Index of Regional Economic Activity in Canterbury shows that after a period of higher than national growth since 2012, growth in Canterbury has slowed since the beginning of 2015 and was 0.6% for the year to March 2016.
  • The value of exports from Lyttelton peaked in 2014 at $7 billion before decreasing to $4.5 billion in 2016. Exports from the airport had a unusual post-earthquake peak in 2012, subsequently it returned to its usual trend and was $1.8 billion for the year to June 2016.
  • Tourism spending in Christchurch is 6% lower in the year to March 2015 at $1.7 billion than in 2009.  Although domestic spending is 13% higher, international spending is 26% lower than in 2009.
  • Although employment in manufacturing has declined, this industry remains the largest contributor to regional GDP, at $3.7 billion in the year to March 2015. Post-earthquake, the construction industry has increased its contribution to GDP by 136% and is now the second largest contributing industry to the region's GDP.

Canterbury Gross Domestic Product

Canterbury Gross Domestic Product graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Gross Domestic Product


Index of Regional Activity

Index of Regional Activity

Source: ANZ, Economic Markets Research


Value of Exports for Christchurch

Value of Exports for Christchurch  graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Overseas Cargo Statistics


Regional Tourism Expenditure

Regional Tourism Expenditure

Source: MBIE Tourism and Research Data


Canterbury Regional GDP by Industry

Canterbury Regional GDP by Industry graph

Source: Statistics NZ, Regional Gross Domestic Product


More detail and information

Regional Gross Domestic Product: Regional gross domestic product (GDP) is a geographic breakdown of national GDP.

Christchurch Economic Development Strategy: The Christchurch Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) identifies long term growth goals and priorities to 2031 that will create a stronger economy and better quality of life.