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.

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Key findings

Total employment and businesses in the Four Avenues Increasing trendIncreasingTrend At February 2018, the total employment in the Four Avenues numbered 39,500 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 22,400 employees to reach a low of 28,880 in 2012.

Since then the employment in the Four Avenues has increased by 10,620. Further information.

Proportion of Christchurch employment in Four Avenues Increasing trendIncreasingTrend

In 2018, 18% 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 both the number and share of employees located within the Four Avenues, although all of them have not returned to pre earthquake levels. 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 2018, there were 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 54,000 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 22,420 employees from 2010 to reach a low of 28,900. Since 2012, employment in the Four Avenues has increased to 39,500 in February 2018, which is around three quarters 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 (84%) of the employment loss occurred within this part of the Four Avenues. Since 2012, this area has received 43% of the growth in Four Avenues employment. 

Employment in the central city area outside of the cordon area decreased by 16% following the earthquakes. In February 2018, this area reached the highest employment total since 2000, at 31,450 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 of 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 18.3% in 2018.

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% and has increased slightly over the last couple of years to 9.3%, a much slower increase than in the proportion of employment meaning that the majority of businesses moving to the central city are larger employers.

Change in the type and location of Four Avenues employment

The proportion of Christchurch employment located in the four avenues varies by different groups of industries. Before the earthquakes, 50% of the city's accommodation employment was located within the four avenues, while 30% of the hospitality employment and 'other' employment was in the four avenues.

Accommodation and hospitality industries in the four avenues had maintained a stable proportion of the city's employment before the earthquakes. Both of these suffered significant employment losses as a result of the earthquakes. Four avenues employment in accommodation declined by almost 90% from 1790 to 224, and employment in hospitality declined by 80%, from around 3000 to 640. 

Both of these industries have made significant recoveries in the four avenues, as new accommodation and hospitality businesses have opened or re-opened. Since 2012, there have been an additional 666 accommodation employees, and 1151 additional hospitality employees in the four avenues. However, they are still only half of the pre-earthquake level of employment for these industries.

Industrial activity has been moving away from the four avenues since 2000, and is likely to continue to follow this trend in the long term, although in recent years it has been buoyed by the construction sector. However even with this growth, central city employment is half of what it was in 2000 and only makes up 5% of the city's total industrial employment.

Before the earthquakes, new office and retail had been developed at a greater rate in suburban areas than the central city. Despite this, around a half of the city's office and one quarter of the city's retail employment was within the four avenues. 

Pre-earthquake office employment peaked in 2008 at 23,400, an increase of 5700 from February 2000. By 2010, this had declined 21,200. Following the earthquakes, office employment in the four avenues fell by 13,600 to a low of 9800 in 2012. It has since increased to 16,300 in 2018.

Retail employment in the four avenues between 2000 and 2005 increased from 4500 to 5200. The next five years saw the number of retail employees decline by 17% to 4260 in February 2010. The earthquakes resulted in a 41% loss in retail employment in the central city, falling to 2500 in 2013, but by 2018 was around 24% lower than the pre-earthquake level.

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 percentage 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

Please email monitor@ccc.govt.nz for further information.

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