Rise of wealthy changes Christchurch

CHARLIE GATES
Last updated 05:00 11/08/2014
DAN TOBIN/Fairfax NZ

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The population of Christchurch's richest areas has grown by more than 13,000 people as a "new breed of wealth" transforms the city's economic landscape.

New research by the University of Otago maps different levels of poverty across New Zealand and shows that Christchurch is better off than it was in 2006.

The number of people living in the least-deprived parts of Christchurch has grown by about 13,000, while the number in the most deprived areas has fallen by about the same number, the latest deprivation index by the University of Otago reveals.

Luxury car dealers in Christchurch say annual sales are doubling.

Business leaders say there is "a lot of cash sloshing around" the city.

Research co-author Peter Crampton said Christchurch had experienced a "substantial affluent shift relative to the rest of the country".

It was unclear why Christchurch's economic fortunes had changed so dramatically but he suggested that poorer people may have been displaced by the earthquakes.

"It is very interesting and you won't see it in any other urban area in New Zealand.

"One theory is that the people in the poor area of Christchurch have shifted by necessity to some of those outlying areas."

International research found that poor people suffered more than the wealthy in natural disasters, Crampton said.

"Wealth gives people access to responses that can protect families more. Poor families are generally bereft of a lot of those responses."

Christchurch city missioner Michael Gorman said poor people had been displaced by the earthquakes.

"Our client base has not let up at all. People are evicted from their homes because the landlords want to do up the house and charge big rents. If they can't afford to go back they have to find somewhere to live. Some have left the city," he said.

Crampton said the findings boded well for Christchurch economically. "The future for Christchurch is a positive one.

"It was on a positive economic and population trajectory before the earthquakes and will continue to be so."

Cockram Motor Group managing director Angus Cockram said sales of $300,000 Maseratis had more than tripled since 2008.

There was a "new emerging wealth" coming from opportunities in the city, right across the building industry, he said.

"We are seeing entrepreneurs, people that take risks. They have cashflow. It is quite exciting. We have more people to pitch luxury cars to."

It had orders for about a dozen Maseratis, Cockram said.

"Our previous best was 11 or 12 Maseratis sold in 2008. This year will be double that.

"Christchurch is out-gunning Auckland from time to time."

Upmarket utility vehicles were also selling well in Christchurch. The number of new utes registered in Canterbury nearly tripled from 1361 in 2010 to 3234 in 2013.

Canterbury Employers' Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said the rebuild was bringing money and jobs to Christchurch.

"The impact of the rebuild is probably not appreciated by most people. The scale of the rebuild is enormous. It will have an impact right across the economy. We are seeing a lot of cash sloshing around in Christchurch.

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"A lot of the old guard have done very well out of commercial rebuilds and insurance in the central city but there is a significant number of new people generating new wealth in the city and that is led by construction."

Christchurch compares well with other New Zealand cities but is not as affluent as Wellington.

About 12 per cent of Christchurch residents live in the most deprived areas, compared to 26 per cent in Hamilton, 16 per cent in Dunedin and just 6 per cent in Wellington.

- The Press

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