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We Kiwis like to give each other a bit of cheeky banter. It’s not unusual to hear us gleefully pointing out the various shortcomings of towns and cities up and down this beautiful country of ours – usually accompanied with a wry smile. In recent years, I’ve found myself spending a lot of time with immigrants. There’s nothing quite like the fresh eyes of someone who has deliberately chosen to make their home in your backyard, to encourage you to reassess where you live.

Queenstown is (and remains) my spiritual home. I was born there and lived there for the majority of my youth and early adult life. I still get butterflies in my stomach as I drive south through the Kawarau Gorge. Other places I have lived include: Mount Cook village (population 50) for 2.5 years; the west coast of America  (living mostly out of a combi van with my sister and parents) for about 4 years; France for about 1 year on an OE and central Wellington (chasing a girl) for 2 years.

As a youngster I had a love/hate relationship with Christchurch. I have officially moved to Christchurch three times now. The first, in my teens, for an education, the second for my business to grow but finally, the third time I moved here, it was for me.

What Christchurch offers me is a great balance for the three main components of my life: family, work and fun.


I have been blessed with an awesome family. That girl I chased to Wellington turned out to be pretty all right and we now have a six year old, a 3 year old and 4 month old.

Our eldest boy attends an amazing (state) primary school just a few minutes walk from our house. The school implements the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. It challenges the students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they explore local and global issues and opportunities in real-life contexts. The key things they taught him in his first year at school were risk taking, empathy and resilience – a pretty solid foundation for life, in my opinion. It also represents some of the social fabric that has developed in post-earthquake Christchurch.

Our middle child attends a community run, not for profit preschool not far from where we live. The preschool implements a Reggio Emilia philosophy with a heavy focus on free play and highly qualified teachers facilitating the Te Whāriki curriculum through child-led inquiry. This is an incredible connection into our local school environment. There is also heaps of outside space, which both of our children have loved.

Exploring the Avon – Pic: Abigail Wills

Thanks to the earthquakes (strange as that sounds!) we find ourselves fortunate enough to live in a warm, modern house, which was very affordable by national standards. While there are still some insurance repair battles happening around the city, a great portion of the housing stock in Christchurch (not to mention public infrastructure and facilities) has been greatly modernized in the last 7 years.

Christchurch has mostly skipped the housing bubble of the last few years. We have an abundance of available land and an excited building industry spurred on by the earthquake rebuild. Christchurch currently has a slight oversupply of housing which, in a nation plagued by “housing affordability” concerns, makes it a very accessible place to buy or rent.

This weekend I took my two older kids horse riding (a mere 20 minute walk from our house). This was followed up by a family trip to the Lyttelton farmers market where we were entertained by The Secret Lives of Ukulele  while stocking up on fresh produce for the week. Genuine market prices really do prove just how much markup our national supermarkets add to basic foods.

The Secret Lives of Ukulele – Pic, George Wills

With high calibre (and deeply affordable) education opportunities, public facilities, outdoor recreation, a sense of community and affordable living, Christchurch is an ideal place to raise a family.


The business was founded in Queenstown in 2001 (albeit under a different name). In Queenstown we found a steady stream of talented people to work in the business, however we were lucky to keep them around for more than a year or two – such is the transient norm in Queenstown.

In 2005, we closed both our Queenstown and Invercargill offices and moved the business to Christchurch in search of a more reliable workforce and stable economic base to operate from. In Christchurch we grew. From here we were able to maintain our southern clients and when we acquired Andrew and Sarah Pitts’ Blenheim-based business we had a solid client base spanning the entire South Island.

Post earthquake Christchurch has given us our biggest opportunities. We now work for many of the largest organisations in the city and have subsequently grown five-fold. With excellent air connections we are able to service our key customers in Wellington, Auckland and Blenheim, as well as have easy access to most of regional New Zealand. With tech tools like Slack and Zoom we can connect with our remote team and clients seamlessly.

With something like 40 billion dollars of offshore reinsurance money flowing into the local economy over the last 7 years, we are now seeing a new wave of entrepreneurs and ventures coming through. Historically, Christchurch has supplied and serviced the agricultural breadbasket of the Canterbury plains as well as much of the rural South Island. Today, this is complemented by a burgeoning tech scene and a strong design and manufacturing base. It’s a pretty exciting time to be building professional networks and tools like Transport for Christchurch and Forward Works that help to shape this city.

Our city owns its key assets too. The airport, port, fibre optic network, power network and maintenance companies, as well as many other holdings, are all owned by the city – giving it an A+ credit rating on 2 billion dollars worth of assets. On top of providing a dividend, the ownership of these strategic assets allows our council to make better long-term investment decisions for the region. This gives me some confidence to invest personally in Christchurch.

The daily commute in Christchurch is hardly a chore either. The average city commute is around 15 – 20 mins by car or bike and public transport options are generally sub-30 minutes. Christchurch has the highest rate of cycling in NZ and this continues to grow with hundreds of millions of dollars being invested in safe cycling infrastructure around the city. My own commute is a 10 minute walk. Which is just long enough to clear my head at the start and end of my working day.

Commuting by bike – Pic,

With all of these benefits, plus a world-class university on our doorstep and a stunning natural environment, we are having no trouble attracting both local and international talent at all levels to work in our business.


If you are of an adventurous spirit Christchurch has a lot to offer. This Saturday I rode my mountain bike from my house along the top of the Port Hills to meet some friends at the adventure bike, a purpose built downhill mountain bike park. The Port Hills are littered with walking and MTB tracks. After living in these hills for the best part of a decade we are still discovering new tracks with stunning views and even a few cheeky little boulders for Mr Six to hone his climbing skills. On Sunday, while the rest of the family were at a kids birthday party, I snuck out for a kitesurf in the waves at New Brighton. It is Monday morning now and I have that feeling of a well-exercised body and organised mind heading into a busy week.

I never appreciated how good the weather was in Canterbury until I moved back from Wellington! In summer, we have several surf beaches mere minutes away from home, which catch the NE to SE swell. The southern swell is just an hour away on Banks Peninsula. The estuary (literally at our doorstep) offers sailing, kiting, windsurfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, crab chasing and bird watching.

Paddleboarding at Taylor’s Mistake – Pic, Abigail Wills

In winter there are half a dozen ski fields within day-trip range, and many more to the south around Queenstown and Wanaka – which are good for a long weekend or ski week.

One of my passions is flying gliders. On our doorstep we have the Canterbury gliding club.  A three hour drive away in Omarama lies one of the world’s best gliding sites. Taking off from either of these locations gets you into the stunning South Island High Country and offers opportunity to tackle international records.


Soaring Aoraki. Video: George Wills & James Pearson

Outdoor recreation is alive an well in this part of the world; walking, hiking, mountaineering, rock climbing, backcountry skiing, wakeboarding, cycling, surfing, sailing (competitive or hobbyist), it is all here. While that meets my needs, there’s much more than parks, mountains and bodies of water on offer. The city has a strong arts and cultural focus too and our pristine supply of water makes some of the best coffee and craft beer in NZ.

It may seem a little un-Kiwi to write an ode to your own backyard. But perhaps if we all spent a little more time being conscious about the beauty of what’s on offer in our regions and smaller towns, we could all start the working week with a bit more energy and joy.  

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