Story: Canterbury region
Page 9 – Industry
From the early days of settlement Christchurch had a range of industries, and a number of well-known New Zealand firms are still based there.
Industry and farming
The earliest factories processed farm products or made goods for farmers. Flour mills, tanneries, wool scourers and soap factories were built mainly at Woolston, near the Heathcote River. Large woollen mills were built at Kaiapoi and in Christchurch, and freezing works at Belfast, Kaiapoi, Islington, Hornby and Fairton. Ashburton also developed industries such as flour mills, which linked town and country.
In the 20th century, Hornby opened a fertiliser works. The Addington railway workshops were at their peak when branch railways served the rural areas.
Clothing, boots and shoes, beer and biscuits were produced for the domestic market. Lane Walker Rudkin, Lichfield and other garment producers made Christchurch the clothing centre.
Initially Christchurch dominated the rubber industry. The Para Rubber Company was founded by George Skellerup in 1910. Plastics for electrical goods became important from 1932 on.
In the later 20th century many long-established factories closed down – the railway workshops, the Hornby glassworks, the Islington freezing works, the Kaiapoi woollen mills, the Whitcombe & Tombs printing factory. Since then, electronics industries have flourished.
In 2001 a relatively high proportion of Canterbury’s population worked in manufacturing: 15.1% compared to the national average of 13%.
Software and sport
Electronics and computing industries have a high profile in Christchurch. In 1998 the top sporting venue, Lancaster Park, was renamed Jade Stadium, when naming rights were sold to the locally based Jade Software Corporation Ltd.
In 1915 a hydroelectric project at Lake Coleridge produced a continuous supply of power to Christchurch. It became a major source of energy for industry.
The timber industry
With native timber scarce, there was an early interest in exotic forestry. Exotic trees were also planted for shade and shelter on the exposed plains.
Government afforestation began in 1902–3 at Hanmer, and continued after the First World War at Balmoral and Eyrewell. Exotic forestry proved marginal because of frost and the fire risk associated with drought. In 1955, 7,600 acres of the Balmoral pine forest were destroyed by fire.
Many forest products are used locally. A plant near Rangiora manufactures particle board.
Fishing fleets have worked out of both Lyttelton and Akaroa. Commercial fishing has all but ceased from Akaroa, but continues from Lyttelton, which also services deep-sea trawlers. A salmon farm operates at Akaroa Harbour.
Te Waihora (Lake Ellesmere) once supplied Christchurch with fish. In the 1970s large numbers of eel were taken for export, but stocks were depleted and the eel fishery is now small.
Outdoor pursuits and urban attractions draw numerous overseas visitors. In Christchurch in 2003, tourism accounted for around 12% of all jobs – higher than the national rate – and the figure was higher in popular spots such as Akaroa.
Christchurch’s international airport is the South Island’s gateway to Mt Cook, Queenstown and Milford Sound. The Mt Hutt ski field attracts Australian skiers. Passenger trains survive because they are popular with tourists. In 2004, tourist guest nights in Canterbury increased faster than in New Zealand as a whole.
In 2001 only a small proportion of New Zealand’s incoming and outgoing cargo was passing through Lyttelton port and Christchurch airport. But the airport handled over one-quarter by value of all cargo loaded for export in New Zealand.