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 2017, the total employment in the Four Avenues numbered 35,100 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 23,350 employees to reach a low of 27,950 in 2012.

Since then the employment in the Four Avenues has increased by 7,150. Further information.

Proportion of Christchurch employment in Four Avenues No trend discernible

In 2017, 16% 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 the share of employees located within the Four Avenues (except Retailing). Further information.

Turnover of Four Avenues Businesses Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Average annual employment turnover (business births plus deaths, as a proportion of total employment) is lower than it was before the earthquakes (3% since 2012). Further information.

Movement of businesses to and from Four Avenues  Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

Since 2013, the Central City has gained a net 1200 employees from businesses relocating to the Four Avenues.

New businesses opening in the Four Avenues have added a further 900 employees. Further information.

Central City retail sales Increasing trendIncreasingTrend 

Retail spending in the Four Avenues has increased by over 30% since the earthquakes.

It is estimated that spending remains around 80% of pre-quake levels. Further information.

Total employment and businesses in the Four Avenues

At February 2017, there were just over 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 53,600 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 23,350 employees from 2010 to reach a low of 28,000. Since 2012, employment in the Four Avenues has increased to 35,100 in February 2017, which is around two thirds 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 (86%) of the employment loss occurred within this part of the Four Avenues. Since 2012, this area has received 40% of the growth in Four Avenues employment. 

Employment in the Central City area outside of the cordon area decreased by 11% following the earthquakes. In February 2017, this area reached the highest employment total since 2000, at 30,400 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 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 17% in 2017.

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%.

Change in the type and location of Four Avenues employment

The proportion of Christchurch employment varies by different groups of industries. Industrial activity has been moving away from the Four Avenues and is likely to continue to follow that trend although in recent years has been buoyed by the construction sector.

Before the earthquakes, new office and retail had been developed at a greater rate in suburban areas than the Central City. Accommodation and hospitality industries had maintained a stable proportion of the City's employment. 

Since the earthquakes, all the industry groups except for retailing have increased their proportions of employees who are located in the Central City. Note the latest retail figures are for February 2017, and as such do not include the opening of many of the new retail developments in the Central City (such as The Crossing and H&M) and their employees. 

Turnover and movement of businesses in the Four Avenues

Between 2000 and 2010, new businesses in the Four Avenues created 9050 new jobs, while during the same period business closures caused an employment loss of almost 9400, resulting in a net loss of 300 employees.

Following the earthquakes, there was a net loss of central city employment of 5100. Since 2013, there has been a net employment gain of 1000.

Before the earthquakes, the average annual employment turnover (business births plus deaths, or startups plus closures) as a%age of the total employment was 3.5%; since 2012 this has declined to 3%.

Some industries, such as Retail Trade and Accommodation and Hospitality, have higher levels of turnover but even those were only around 5% in pre-earthquakes time. Since the quakes, the levels of Retail turnover are lower than before the quake. However, Accommodation and Food Services, which includes cafes, is up around 10% (note this is dominated the high number of businesses opening than closing).

Between 2002 and 2010, the Four Avenues gained businesses that employed 4400 employees from other parts of Christchurch and New Zealand, and lost 6900 employees in businesses that moved away from the Four Avenues.

The earthquakes resulted in around 1500 businesses moving out of the Four Avenues taking 14,600 employees with them; 95% of this employment went to other parts of Christchurch while 5% went outside of Christchurch. In addition, 3000 employees moved within the Four Avenues as a result of the earthquakes. 

A quarter of the loss in employment as a result of the earthquakes was from businesses closing, whereas the other three quarters of the Four Avenues employment loss moved to other parts of the City.

Since 2013, the Four Avenues has gained a net 1,200 employees due to businesses relocating to the Four Avenues, and gained a net 900 employees due to new businesses opening (compared with businesses closing).

Central city retailing

Retail sales in the Four Avenues in the 3rd quarter of 2017 totalled $370 million, which was 37% higher than in the 3rd quarter in 2011 ($250 million).

Around 44% of the sales in the 2017 June year was for motor vehicles and fuel, followed by department and other stores (16%) and food, groceries and liquor (15%).

If motor vehicles and fuel is removed, the annual total for the year to June 2017 was $844 million dollars; a 30% increase since the 2012 June year. While Statistics New Zealand does not have pre-quake retail sales information for the Central City, Marketview(external link) provides spending data which gives an indication that spending in the year to June 2017 is 80% of the level of spending in the Four Avenues in 2009.


Further information

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