Close this window

February 2004
Christchurch captures conference crowds

It's hard now to imagine city life without the Christchurch Convention Centre, the country's first and only purpose-built international conference venue. It's hosted international conferences, staged world class events, been dressed up for gala dinners and charity balls, worked hard for exhibitions - and earned $50 - 70 million of year in new money for the economy. Local businesses have benefited by supplying goods and services and meeting the highest expectations of experienced global clients, and extending their networks to include key buyers in specialist areas. It is being booked for events several years ahgead, and is one of the top ranked convention faculties in the Asia Pacific region, with widespread industry support and awards. Not bad for just six years in business!

The Christchurch Convention Centre was opened by former Mayor Vicki Buck in November 1997, whose vision for international conference infrastructure was a driving force behind the Christchurch City Council's decision to invest $15.6 million in the venue. But to keep bringing international events to the city, there needs to be a continual stream of new products to entice planners to hold their events here.

Mike Kelly, Executive Director of venue manager NCC (New Zealand) Ltd, said corporate event planners were continually looking for new products for conference and incentive delegates to experience, and some cities did not get new business because there was a perception they had "nothing new".

Mike said the meetings and incentives industry has an insatiable appetite for new attractions, new products, and exotic and fashionable destinations. "Down here is a safe and stable environment, we haven't been as damaged by SARS as many of our colleagues in Asia have been, especially Hong Kong."

"At present New Zealand as a destination is riding a wave of world wide attention generated by the third of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and there's a demand for tours of Middle Earth. There's a surge of new activity in several spheres of direct relevance to event planners, from food and wine products and environments, to adventure and eco-tourism ventures, cultural and heritage experiences. These new products offer excellent value for money. Some of them challenge comfort zones, and some challenge the waist line - but there rare several world class golf courses available for relatively modest green fees."

As well as having the country's only international standard purpose-built convention venue, Christchurch has the Westpac Centre for Sport and Entertainment, New Zealand's largest indoor arena with a seating capacity of 8,888. It's hosted recent events, such as the Mercedes Challenge where 4200 watched John McEnroe beat Pat Cash in the best of three sets. The venue is home to the Canterbury rams basketball and Canterbury Flames netball teams, and both codes have seen steadily growing crowd support.

Looking ahead, Mike Kelly hopes to be staging play off or final matches in the Australian National Basketball League now that New Zealand a national team entered, NZ Breakers. They played and won two games at Westpac Centre in January, and said it was the best venue on the ABNL circuit.

Gala dinners have become a signature for both venues, with catering by SSL and Montana Wines. A recent Menu Makeover resulted in a range of new menus reflecting international tastes and fashions, from haute cuisine to simple sandwiches. There are conference packages so delegates have something different every day, morning and afternoon tea packages, healthy items, morning after menus, New Zealand, Mediterranean and Asian buffets, formal dinner menus and the ever-popular breakfast menu.

Last December the Christchurch Convention Centre and Town Hall were dressed up and all turned out to impress at the 2003 Christchurch SHOW OFF! Key industry buyers and contacts from throughout New Zealand and some from Australia were invited to have a fresh look at the venues.

One setting which had international and domestic visitors stunned in admiration was the Town Hall Auditorium's transformation into a series of gala dinner settings. Four themed options were presented, with the highlight being the venue's signature Phantom theme. While the pipe organ was played lights shone on dramatically themed table settings amidst swirling dry ice. Sales & Marketing Director, Cathy Hemsworth, said at least one new international conference was confirmed as a direct result of key people seeing the venue for themselves.

"It was enough to tip the balance and the timing of our SHOW OFF! was ideal for this client. They were completely persuaded by what they saw. We had all the main areas within the Christchurch Convention Centre and Town Hall set up to show them off and to show how versatile and hardworking they can be for smaller and mid-sized events as well as being simply stunning on a grand scale," Cathy said. "Several wonderfully talented people contributed, such as Patricia Proctor Design, Jane Spiers Design, Scenario Staging, Ross Mackenzie, Carton Hire Group, Peek Display, Shipleys Audio Visual and NCC's own in-house technical services and caterers, SSL."

Christchurch Central MP Tim Barnett was one of the visitors. "Christchurch Convention Centre is on my doorstep, and I often call in to a variety of events. But a recent chance to see round all its facilities in an hour was a revelation. It is a stupendous complex of stunning spaces, enriched by the innovation and flair of local suppliers and designers. Its potential has to be seen to be believed. Christchurch Convention Centre is simply New Zealand's finest. And that is even before visitors emerge from it to explore the city. They are within five minutes of the nation's leading heritage precinct, fine food from every continent and an Art Gallery which defies description".

"People don't think of Convention Centres as being part of the local economy. They are wrong. The scale and prominence of the Christchurch Convention Centre is deeply impressive, and its strength in depth includes great flexibility. Its value to the local economy approaches three figures (in millions) annually. It is an icon and a great boon to our city," Tim Barnett said.

The SHOW OFF! also gave potential clients the chance to see the comprehensive network of support and auxiliary services available. "It was a chance to show case the standards our local providers of goods and services have achieved, from technical equipment, specialized skills such as themeing to staging and conference furniture. The benefit for clients is the convenience of having essentially a one-stop shop solution for all their event, meeting and conference needs."

"One of our aims was to show that we are not too big or expensive for the small to medium sized meetings, and that we can provide a range of spaces on the one site. This is particularly important for meetings with associated trade or exhibition shows, gala dinners or the hosting of special events."


For more information email or phone or visit the website for a virtual tour of the venues -