The Canterbury rebuild five years on from the Christchurch earthquake

Release date
Vol. 79. No. 3. February 2016
Amy Wood; Ilan Noy; Miles Parker

At 12:51pm on 22 February 2011, an earthquake of magnitude 6.3 occurred in Christchurch, causing widespread devastation and loss of life. It was the second major earthquake to affect Canterbury in six months, and was followed by thousands of aftershocks. Five years on, this article provides an update on how economic activity and prices in the Canterbury region have been affected, and the progress made to date in the rebuild.

The damage to property in Canterbury was substantial; the total value of construction work to be completed over the period of the rebuild is estimated to be about $40 billion (in 2015 dollars). The Reserve Bank estimates that the rate of rebuild activity under way in Canterbury is around 1.5 percent of potential GDP per annum, and that the rebuild will extend beyond 2020.

Christchurch has recovered its initial loss in population, boosted by the influx of workers for the rebuild. Construction sector activity has increased markedly over the past five years. Most other sectors appear resilient, with notable exceptions being tourism and education, where activity is down sharply.