The Canterbury earthquakes have provided an unprecedented opportunity to review, revitalize and renew the city of Christchurch within a global context.

International Relations Policy Statement

October 2013

Following extensive public consultation, strategic central and local governmental responses such as the Christchurch Central City Recovery Plan and the Recovery Strategy have been developed.  These envisage the City becoming a thriving international city within the Greater Christchurch locality which is a place to be proud of as an attractive and vibrant place to live, work, visit, study and invest. 

More than ever before Christchurch’s success will depend on the connections and relationships it builds with international partners.

Policy aim

That International Relations enhance Christchurch as a sustainable, dynamic, modern international city in order to contribute to a stronger community, a prosperous economy, and good governance.

Purpose statement

The International Relations Policy will determine the framework of how Christchurch interacts with the international community to support the city’s social, cultural, environmental and economic goals.

This means that Christchurch’s international relationships will embrace diversity along with social and cultural understanding.  They will also attract skilled migrants, encourage tourism and education, foster economic development and international investment, promote environmental sustainability, and capture and share best practice and learning opportunities in these arenas.

The Policy recognises that the Council plays a key role in developing the City’s international relationships in a fast, ever changing and developing international context.

This Policy links strongly to three key community outcomes for Council as part of its long term planning:

Strong Communities - Cultural and ethnic diversity is valued and celebrated.
Prosperous Economy - Christchurch is recognised as a great place to work, live, visit, invest and do business.
Good Governance - The Council has effective relationships with central government and other key partners.


The City’s relations internationally are about how Christchurch engages with other countries and communities in the international arena.  The ensuing relationships and connections help build social, cultural and environmental understandings and benefits, and potentially lay the foundation relationships towards economic development.

To be effective, the Policy must connect with other Council strategies and activities such as the Christchurch Economic Development Strategy, the Sister Cities Strategy, the Events Strategy, and the Visitors Strategy, along with the Recovery Strategy developed by CERA.

The Council will need to enhance, complement and maintain working relationships with other key stakeholders, both locally and nationally, to deliver an effective international relations policy and to achieve mutual outcomes.  Key relationships include, without being limited to, those with central government (e.g. Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Education New Zealand), arms of local government (Canterbury Development Corporation, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism), Ngāi Tahu, Sister City Committees, ethnic communities and the private sector. 

Agreements will be developed between the Council and other key stakeholders, including Council Controlled Organisations, to determine respective roles, responsibilities, expectations.  These agreements will be supported by a strategic communications plan to communicate more effectively the Council’s annual programme of international relations (including the work of the Sister City Committees).

The Council’s international relations also play an important role as the City recovers from the 2010-2011 earthquakes. Learning from recovery experiences in other parts of the world and exchange the lessons we in turn have learnt in a compassionate and reciprocal manner will be a key focus. 


  • To work with key stakeholders to develop relationships that meet identified common goals.
  • To facilitate co-ordination and understanding between local and central government along with the community and private sectors to develop a whole-of-government approach to relationships.
  • To develop relationships and connections that attract quality investment, growth and innovation, education and tourism, including skilled migrants, visitors and international students.
  • To support and enhance our existing Sister City relationships.
  • To assess the potential for different types of international relationships to achieve the best outcomes for the City.
  • To identify opportunities to utilise local and Council expertise to increase capability within identified developing cities, particularly in the Asia/Pacific area.
  • To facilitate the capture and exchange of best practice initiatives, particularly in the area of disaster recovery.


The Policy’s goals are underpinned by these principles to help the Council assess opportunities for new relationships and for the review of existing ones:

  • Promotion
    • Increase Christchurch’s profile internationally.
    • Showcase Christchurch on the international stage to promote and build upon the city’s international reputation.
    • Reinforce the message that Christchurch is a great place to work, live, visit, study, invest and do business.
  • Leverage
    • Capture and share international best practice initiatives.
    • Increase international recognition of what Christchurch does best.
    • Support key stakeholders in their efforts to promote tourism, economic development and education in Christchurch
  • Connection
    • Facilitate economic, educational, social, cultural and sporting development connections to the mutual benefit of Christchurch and our partner locations.
    • Collaborate with local and international stakeholders to promote the best possible outcomes for all parties.
    • Support central government and a ‘NZ Inc’ approach to international activities.

Framework of relationships

A range of partnership types will apply to Christchurch’s international connections, depending on the nature of the relationship, the level of engagement (at the civic and community level) and the resources committed.  These may include Memoranda or Letters of Understanding, friendly Cooperative Agreements, Alliances, formal Sister City relationships, or membership of international associations.

Type of Relationship Description of Relationship
Strategic Relationship Strategic partnerships may operate external to the Council, but Council support must fit with its Community Outcomes of a Stronger Community, Prosperous Economy and Good Governance.  These partnerships will be time orientated, managed through Memoranda of Understanding and delivered and supported collaboratively.
Special Relationship Special relationships will provide the opportunity for linkages between communities with a special interest area or activity.  These relationships will exist under the auspices of the Council but could be delegated to other stakeholders if deemed appropriate. 
These relationships will be project focused, managed through contracts or Memoranda of Understanding and delivered and supported collaboratively.
Membership of International Associations Membership of international associations, managed by Council’s International Relations, will provide the opportunity to promote Christchurch and the wider South Island.  Membership of associations must fit with the Community Outcomes of a Stronger Community, Prosperous Economy and Good Governance.  These relationships will exist under the auspices of the Council but could be delegated to other stakeholders if deemed appropriate. 
These relationships will be project focused, managed through contracts or Memoranda of Understanding and delivered and supported collaboratively.
Friendly City Relationship A friendly city relationship is less formal and lower profile relationship than a Sister City relationship.  A friendly city relationship is likely to be long term, based upon social, cultural or sporting partnership.  A friendly city relationship is the likely stepping stone towards becoming a Sister City.
These relationships must have the support and commitment of the community and be managed through Memoranda of Understanding.
Sister City (Historical) A Sister City where the relationship is based upon historical or ceremonial links, where the activity is limited.  This category may be used in the event it is mutually decided between existing Sister Cities and the appropriate voluntary committee that an active relationship is no longer present.
 Sister City Sister City relationships are formal long term relationships where there are strong links in the areas of culture, education, sport, and business.  Sister City relationships will be formalised by Council agreement, require civic and community engagement on both sides and will be managed in Christchurch by a voluntary community committee, supported by Council resources.  Sister City relationships are required to be re-affirmed every five years at the civic level and aspirations for the next five years agreed upon between civic authorities (in consultation with the voluntary community committees) at this time. 

Current relationship commitments

Strategic Partnerships:   Antarctic Gateway Cities
International  Associations:   Great Wine Capitals
  Mayors for Peace
Friendly City:   Wuhan, People’s Republic of China
Sister City:   Adelaide, Australia
  Christchurch, United Kingdom
  Gansu Province, People’s Republic of China
  Kurashiki, Japan
  Seattle, United States of America
  Songpa-gu, Republic of Korea

Giving effect to the policy

To support the International Relations Policy, planning will be undertaken for the Council’s international relations programme.  In the first instance, emphasis will be given to reviewing and updating the Council’s Sister Cities Strategy, which will address a number of issues raised during the review and development of the International Relations Policy. 

The extent to which the Policy is implemented will depend on decisions made in the Council’s Long Term Plan and Annual Plan processes.  It is through the Long Term Plan that the work identified in the Council’s international relations programme will be balanced against other Council projects and services.

Other sections of the policy

Access other sections of the policy by selecting one of the below, or view the International Relations Policy [PDF, 3 MB].