Christchurch v Wellington – Guest Post John Stringer

Wellington is 1/10th as Good as Christchurch (even after the

Kilometres of Christchurch beaches make Oriental Bay look
like a sand pit, which it is, just dumped ships ballast. So
you’re sunbathing on a tip!

Up until the year 2000, I had lived equal durations in both
the Wellington and Canterbury regions, raised my kids in
both, so am qualified to take on Colin Espiner and his
assessment of Wellington vs Auckland.  I’m sorry, but this
will be a one-eyed total slam dunk.

Christchurch is named after God; Wellington after some
British warmonger.

Colin opines,

1. Better coffee. Wellington is powered by caffeine. And
there’s none finer than in the capital.

Well, if “coffee” is Wellington’s best “asset”
let’s just stop now. The same coffee in Wellington is
distributed elsewhere in NZ, so that is an impotent point.
Christchurch has hundreds of cafes and all the main brands
of coffee, as well as its own local roasters.

2. The Brooklyn windmill. Don’t scoff. One of the first in
the country and now a major tourist attraction. The views
from the carpark are stunning.

Any views in Welly (if you’re not being blown over) are
about a tenth as good as the 360 degree views from the Port
Hills (try the Christchurch Gondola, not that red fire
engine on a cable thingy; ours is silent, yours rattles and
bangs away).  Against the Welly Windmill (an ironic but
appropriate fit for Windy Welly) Christchurch has the
Victorian Jubilee clock tower, the bells of several
neo-gothic churches, two massive cathedrals, and had the
Lyttelton time ball.

3. The Bucket Fountain. You’ve got to love a town that
keeps something so hideous and so broken that it’s become
a city icon.

If this is one of Welly’s finest bench-marks then it’s
all over.  It’s a hideous thing.  To counter, Christchurch
has it kitsch Queen Mother Corgis, the stunning Drummonds
outside the Christchurch Art Gallery, the Anzac bridge, the
hideous 9/11 memorial sculpture on Madras St (perhaps the
ugliest public sculpture ever made) or any number of
brilliant public sculptures that grace like artificial
flowers this very fair Garden City.

4. The Penthouse cinema. Arthouse cinema at its finest,
complete with decent red wine and its own theatre cat.

The Art Centre cinemas (Cloisters and Academy), Hollywood at
Sumner, the Rialtos, the Metro, the Regent, as well as the
chains: Hoyts, Movieland and Readings. Christchurch has
gazillions more cinematic options than Welly and even more
than Sydney.  We even have outdoor cinema.

5. Westpac Stadium. Sorry Eden Park, but the Cake Tin is
better in every respect.

I have to concede this one, as Jade is damaged, but we have
several others (our Westpac Stadium for example, as backup)
and Christchurch is getting a huge multi-million dollar job
bordering Cathedral Square.  It will be state-of-the-art.

6. Public transport. Aucklanders haven’t heard of this,
but it’s a fast, cheap, convenient and quick way to get to

Many young adults in Christchurch simply do not have drivers
licenses because they can get anywhere in our city, hassle
free, inexpensively, on the amazing transport system.
Moreover, we have San Francisco style trams, London
double-decker buses, an efficient rail system; it all leaves
Welly for dead.  Our bus drivers are also friendly and
helpful; Welly bus drivers are known for their grumpiness.
It’s the weather.

Christchurch has far more bikes than Welly and the most
amazing suburban rides as well as mountain-biking options
with views the best in the world for this sport.

7. Sunshine and fresh air. OK, sometimes too much fresh air,
but Welly clocks up many more sunshine hours than its
northern sibling.

Blenheim actually has the record, so this goes to a
Mainlander.  Christchurch has much fresher air because we
have a massive range of mountains along our spine, and our
city is much closer to direct prevailing sea winds.

8. Cuba Street. No other city in New Zealand does cool
grunge like Wellington’s Cuba Street. Plus it’s home to
Midnight Espresso, home of the finest nachos in the country.

Sorry, Cuba Street is a second-hand shop with a few buskers.
Christchurch wipes the floor here with its impressive
Cashel Street pop-up Restart Mall (now an international
attraction) and New Regent Street with its tram flow and
Spanish Colonial architecture.  Then there’s Rolleston
Avenue flanked by Christs College, the Canterbury Museum,
the Avon, and spectacular Hagley Park, the rival of NY’s
Central Park. No contest.

9. Wellington’s waterfront. Whereas Auckland and
Christchurch have turned their backs on their ports, the
capital’s is a living, breathing, human space. And you
can’t beat Oriental Parade in the sunshine.

It is abutted by a huge Soviet box (Te Papa paid for by the
rest of us) and trying to access the foreshore is not that
easy.  In Christchurch stroll down to New Brighton and walk
along the Brighton Pier, read a book in the library on the
sea front, or go over to the many bays of Banks Peninsula
where you can swim with dolphins, catch various ferries to
exotic bays like Diamond Harbour, or enjoy the seaman’s
culture of Lyttelton, Scott and Shackleton’s final ports
of call.

10. Houses you can actually afford to buy. Not much point in
living somewhere if you can’t afford it. Wellington house
prices are not cheap, but they’re not stupid either.

You can buy a 2-3 bedroom in Christchurch by the sea for
$149,000 (there are several on Trademe today) or you can buy
multi-million dollar homes in a massive selection of
beautiful suburbs, several with rivers flowing through them.

We haven’t even mentioned the Crusaders (I have to show
some mercy), or the easy access to the great outdoors that
Christchurch has in spades: from alpine skiing to ocean
sports, ballooning, sky sports, caving, mountain climbing
and all within the hour.

Kilometres of beaches make Oriental Bay look like a sand
pit. There is mighty chinook salmon, and trout fishing, in
Christchurch. You can literally hand feed wild trout and NZ
eels within a block of Cathedral Square. We are wrapped
around by an ocean reserve with whales, dolphins, and ocean
fishing. We have a working Maori village, a working modern
Maori tribe, Ngai Tahu, a role model for how Maori can make
the most of historic Treaty settlements.

Our art gallery puts to shame anything in Wellington as does
the vibrant arts community across the spectrum.
Punting-on-the-Avon, the Antarctic Centre, the Cardboard
Cathedral, our huge network of parks, gardens, river and
wetland reserves; the texture of Banks Peninsula. Then
there’s Autumn and Spring.  Christchurch is utterly

Since 1900, Canterbury has produced seven prime ministers
(Hall-Jones, Holland, Kirk, Palmer, Moore, Shipley, Key) to
Wellington’s three (Fraser, Nash. Marshall).  Aaron
Gilmore may have stood on our List, but he moved to live in
Wellington, so he’s yours.

You may have the (recent) Wellywood investment of Sir Peter
Jackson at Miramar, and Weta, but where are all those films
actually shot?  Canterbury. Heavenly Creatures is a
Christchurch Story.  The Riders of Rohan gallop Canterbury
vistas. Narnia’s centaurs and fawns carouse among our
limestone outcrops.

Sorry Welly, but perhaps the best measure is that more
people choose to live in the Garden City than in the glass
and steel corridor of Welly, jammed in between the Petone
highway and the Ngauranga Gorge.  Christchurch is the second
largest city in New Zealand and shines beside Wellington’s
flickering torch.


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