Christchurch In Denial


If the results of market research of Canterbury residents is reflected nationwide, heaven help us.

Today, the price of oil reached a fresh 18-month high.

But Christchurch folk can’t see further than the tip of their steering wheel.

Christchurch’s regional land transport committee has conducted research to help it with its 30 year transport strategy. It included workshops, gatherings around the region in places like Timaru and Ashburton and a braad based survey of residents.

The results have been deafening. The overall conclusion:
Few -that’s few - respondents thought the transport system, or the global context of transport, would change sufficiently over the next ten years to affect their travelling behaviour.

Even the younger teenage residents in the workshops overwhelmingly came to the same conclusion as adults:

The future of transport in Canterbury is definitely about cars, which means a need for larger, better, roads

Christchurch residents, whom you would have thought were more attune to trams, buses and cycles,barely gave a nod to public transport - even for the region’snext 30 years.

The participants in the Christchurch workshop saw the future of transport in Christchurch as being built completely around private cars. Some agreed some of those cars may be different to today’s petrol-powered cars but they would still be cars.

There was an acknowledgement that as the population grows, and congestion increases, there may - as in may - be more public transport. But this would have to be some attractive and “viable” alternative to the private car and drivers would have to get some strong clear incentive to make them even consider switching.

Those who did manage to offer some response to questions about alternatives offered up a light rail system to transport passengers around the city, between the city and suburbs, city and satellite towns, city and rural areas. Rural and small urban residents mentioned this particularly. Others mentioned putting freight on trains to reduce the congestion on roads caused by trucks.

But in all the groups around the region, there was uniform thinking, leading to the conclusion:

Given the widespread belief that Canterbury’s transport future will be built around cars and roads, many participants in this research could see no justification for creating a strategy that deliberately attempted to reduce people’s dependence on cars. In addition, few participants in this research saw any merit in using transport strategies as a way of improving the health and well being of residents.

Maybe it’s not surprising but how disappointing.

Market research findings




  1. Matt L says:

    It just confirms what has long been suspected, Cantabrians are just jealous of Auckland :-p

  2. Steven K says:

    High petrol prices will change people’s focus from cars to public transportation real fast.

  3. Jon R says:

    Get a group of alcoholics drunk and ask them if they will stop drinking.

    Would you base your recommendations on what they say?

  4. Jeremy Harris says:

    The simple fact of the matter is when the amount of oil coming from tar sands and deep sea rigs increases the price over $3 a litre (in today terms) over the next 15 or so years people will know what to do… Move closer to work and catch the bus, won’t really matter what they would rather be travelling in…

  5. Geoff says:

    High oil prices won’t change their view, because people anywhere only understand what they know, and Christchurch people only know cars.

    What is needed is a PT campaign pointing out that Christchurch is repeating Auckland’s past mistakes. Once they realize they can be compared to that, they’ll start to think differently, as Mainlanders don’t take well to being compared to their northern cousins.

  6. Andu says:

    Unfortunate to be reminded about how blind NZ people are. The horrendous Easter road toll is just acceptable collateral damage to most people.

  7. max says:

    When the petrol prices go up, some people will just call for lower taxes and “keeping our oil here”.

  8. JSH says:

    This doesn’t surprise me one bit. Christchurch is just cars cars cars.

    Geoff has absolutely nailed it, people in Christchurch just do not know anything other than cars when it comes to transport.

    The attitude change has to start at the top though.

  9. Steve W says:

    Christchurch is incredibly disorganised in terms of placement from what I’ve seen. I believe that this has hindered growth somewhat. In terms of population growth it’s slipped back comparatively against other cities such as Hamilton.
    I’ve been there quite a few times in recent years and considered the question of a return to rail subbies. It’s current Railway Station is only on the perimeter of the inner city. All things considered I think that the status quo will be maintained with maybe a few new improvised busways.

  10. Jon R says:

    It would be good to get more people to join the Campaign for Better Transport in CHCH. Just look at the success of CBT in the Waikato now. The Waikato team are all new to promoting public transport, but are actively changing media and public opinion ( the National MPs will take some time to register what their electorates want ).
    The same needs to happen in CHCH. One city and region at a time I guess.

  11. Jeremy Harris says:

    Christchurches CBD is light years ahead for Auckland’s and even Wellington’s…

    Hagley Park, the squares, the river and walkability all more than make up for the lack of a waterfront…

    As long as they don’t build a dirty motorway through the CBD it will not be beyond the ability to become a truly great people city…

  12. jsh says:

    @ Steve W - Comparitively Chch’s population growth isn’t lagging behind these days (but it did during the 1960′s-1980′s). Indeed it recently became the 2nd largest urban area.

    @ Jon R - I agree there needs to be more support in Chch for promoting public transport. Even the Green party take little interest in Christchurch. All their transport statements are focused on Auckland & Wellington.

  13. Steve W says:

    @jsh - yes you’re correct about it being a large urban area, but I believe that it’s comparatively low in density to Wellington and Auckland.
    Referring to my earlier comment re- displacement, I understand that there is a lower proportion of CBD trips by commuters than there are in other cities, thus making public transport issues more complex

  14. curtissd says:

    Such a shame they are not interested in the PT future. To slowly evolve it should be on the cards.

  15. JSH says:

    @ steve w - certainly lower density than Wellington, however likely not much lower than Auckland. Same with proportion of CBD trips, certainly lower than Wellington but similar to Auckland.

    The main problem is the haphazard way the suburbs have developed and the lack of any major transport corridors. There is really nothing to build on like in Wellington and Auckland. Luckily, while residents are ignorant local government is not.


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