The Southern Centre: multi-sensory experience

The Southern Centre is a multi-sensory recreational environment for people of all ages and abilities.

Southern Centre logo

"Wow – this was an amazing visit for myself and my daughter Jinayla. Jinayla has always been hesitant to enter new experiences but she pretty much headed on in with enthusiasm.  We will be back. Thank you to the staff for an amazing experience."  - Leeanne. 

A toddler grins as she hits a device with drumsticks.

A multi-sensory experience

Using innovative lighting and sound technology, the Southern Centre allows you to explore and create at the touch of a switch. 

You can feel vibrations, touch different textures, change lighting effects and experience different smells. 

It is a unique facility with the ability to cater for the needs of the individual, empowering you to choose your own environment, make changes and control your leisure time.

The Southern Centre sensory room is located on the first floor at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre - 75 Lyttelton Street, Spreydon, Christchurch - and is a partnership that incorporates the Council and The Southern Centre Charitable Trust.

Bookings are required. 

Opening hours

Day Opening hours
Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm
Saturday 10am to 1.30pm
Sunday 11.30am to 3pm


Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre
75 Lyttelton Street


Activity Standard fee Community Services and KiwiAble Leisure cardholders
Individual session $7.80 per person $5.80 per person
Birthday party $16.00 plus the individual price 

Swim combos

Activity Standard fee Community Services and KiwiAble Leisure cardholders
Adult swim combo $11.30 per person $8.50 per person
Child swim combo
(under 16 years)
$9.40 per person $7.00 per person


Contact us to book

  • Phone: 03 941 8999 or 03 941 7016
  • Email:
  • Post: PO Box 73033, Christchurch 8154
  • In-person: Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre, 75 Lyttelton Street, Spreydon, Christchurch


A multi-sensory environment allows people of all ages and abilities to attend an alternative recreational activity to meet their needs.

Sensory sessions

The Southern Centre sessions run for 30 minutes with up to ten participants at a time. A support person is required to attend with the participants. 

Each session is essentially regarded as a private booking giving the participants individual time in the Southern Centre. Participants can enjoy the centre at their own pace. 

Staff are present in the room at all times to assist with the use of the equipment and to answer any questions.

Birthday parties

If you are looking for a unique experience, the Southern Centre is a great place to hold a birthday party. 

The Southern Centre provides a sensory session with a birthday theme, balloons and a personalised message. Sessions last 30 minutes and are available for groups of up to ten participants.

Swim combos

Combo Sessions are also available, combining a sensory session at the Southern Centre and a swim at Pioneer pool.

Facility tours

Facility tours are available for individuals and organisations who would like to learn more about the Southern Centre and its equipment.


A toddler sits amongst shiny wire or pipe and explores his environmentA multi-sensory environment is a relaxing space, which helps reduce stress levels and develop social skills.

Benefits of a multi-sensory environment:

  • promotes intellectual activity including memory recall
  • encourages relaxation
  • interactive equipment develops an understanding of  cause and effect
  • helps to develop language – encourages participants to make choices or indicate their preference
  • promotes social skills and helps lower stress levels
  • last of all, it's a fun environment.

Who can benefit from a multi-sensory environment:

  • children and adults who have significant needs including cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, autism and multiple disabilities 
  • people with brain injuries
  • people suffering from dementia and other related disorders
  • children and adults who suffer from anxiety and mental health issues including stress.


"One of the best half hours we have had. A safe and exciting place for exploring."  - Samantha.

"I have been coming here for 3 years with a Cerebral Palsy boy.  Always enjoys the experience.  Also great for my 2-year-old granddaughter.  Great staff."  - Raywyn.

"I enjoy taking my one-year-old to the Sensory Room. Having studied early childhood development I know the importance of sensory experiences for infants, toddlers and young children during their environment.  We will be back!" - Sally.

"I found the Southern Centre has been very beneficial to Service users in our care, who look forward to going.  Very relaxed after an experience with lots of things to do, changed up on a regular basis which keeps if interesting and fun.  Staff are very friendly and accommodating to the needs of our Service Users." - Cordelia.


Man enjoying the Southern Centre experience The Southern Centre is operated under a very successful partnership between the Christchurch City Council and the Southern Centre Charitable Trust.

The Christchurch City Council manages the daily operation of the Southern Centre, which includes staffing, general building requirements, processes and overhead costs.

The Trust is responsible for sourcing funding for the specialised equipment in the room, which includes new equipment projects and maintenance of equipment.

The original concept for multi-sensory rooms began in the Netherlands in the late 1970s and grew in popularity in both the UK and Europe.

The types and functions of sensory rooms have changed and morphed over the years and the Southern Centre is an extremely dynamic version of the early rooms.

This innovation and creativity have seen the Southern Centre recognised on the international stage, winning the World Leisure Award for Innovation and Excellence.

The first Southern Centre was located at QEII Recreation and Sport Centre until the February 2011 earthquake. It was then relocated to its current location at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre.