Tō tātou kōrero | Our story

Sun strikes a small white lighthouse on a peninsula as the sea breaks below

Ka titiro whakamuri ki te anga whakamua
We must look to our past to guide our future.

Ka titiro whakamuri | Our past

The Waitaha Canterbury region is defined by its diverse landscapes and environments with braided rivers, open plains, coastal beaches, and the snow-capped mountains of the Southern Alps all within reach.

The area is the largest region in the country by geographic size and is home to Ōtautahi Christchurch - the biggest urban area in Te Waipounamu the South Island and a major gateway for tourists.

From its earliest days, the area has had a history as an abundant provider of natural resources and food and attracted Māori settlement from as early as the 10th century. Of these early Māori, it was Ngāi Tahu who came to populate most of the region, and showed those that followed, the resourcefulness and knowledge needed to adapt to the requirements of living in a southern environment. The strength of Ngāi Tahu was tested with the arrival of European settlers, the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) and the subsequent quest for justice and redress that culminated in the Ngāi Tahu Settlement of 1998.

In more recent history the resilience of the inhabitants of Canterbury has been tested by a number of significant events that have shaped the character and landscape of the region. Major earthquakes in Christchurch in 2011, and Kaikōura in 2016, have tested the resourcefulness and resolve of residents and have challenged the region to ‘build back better’. In some cases, the challenges posed by these events has been severe and the need to support the physical and mental health of this group of people continues to this day.

Canterbury has also faced economic challenges, terrorism and health shocks that have tested the region’s ability to respond to crises. The effects of the 2008 Global Financial crisis, the 2019 Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre terrorism, and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic have all had significant impacts on the lives of people within the region. In meeting these challenges, Canterbury has built a resilience and community spirit that provides a strong foundation for the region, as it builds from its historical identity and onwards into the uncertainty of the future.

I tēnei wā tonu | Now

In 2022 649,800 people, or 12.7% of New Zealand’s population, reside in Canterbury. Christchurch is the region’s principal and most populous centre, and the country's second largest urban area. Defined by the diversity of its geography, demographics and local economies, the Canterbury region includes 11 different sub-regions: Kaikōura, Hurunui, Waimakariri, Christchurch City, Selwyn, Ashburton, Timaru, Mackenzie, Waimate, Waitaki and the Chatham Islands.

Canterbury has urbanised rapidly over the past decade. Urban population growth has been characterised by a predominance of families with young children and means that the majority of Canterbury’s population is now urbanised. This is important, as the region feels the varied impacts of diverging sub regional population growth trends with areas such as Selwyn and Waimakariri growing rapidly. In other areas, like in the region’s rural communities, we anticipate other impending pressures as large numbers of workers approach retirement age.

Recently, regional GDP per capita in Canterbury (as at 2020) was $61,869, slightly below the national average of $63,556. The region comprises 12.1% of New Zealand’s GDP and over the last 10 years has had an annual average growth rate of 2.6% (which is the same as the national average).

Within the region, Canterbury has 307,500 filled jobs (as at February 2020). This employment is primarily located in Christchurch City (71%), followed by Selwyn and Waimakariri (11.3%) and then Canterbury’s other sub-regions (17.7%).

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the sectors contributing the most to Canterbury’s employment numbers were Manufacturing, Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail Trade, Construction, and Education and Training. Canterbury also has a strong Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing industry with the regions outside of Christchurch City dominating employment in this sector.

Despite recent sharp rises in 2021, house values remain significantly more affordable compared to the New Zealand average. This means that Canterbury is able to have a mortgage proportion of income of 29.5% compared to a national average of 37.5% (as at 2021).

The biggest contributors to economic growth over the last 10 years by sector include, Professional Scientific and Technical Services, Construction, Retail Trade, Agriculture Forestry and Fishing, and Health Care and Social Assistance.

Te anamata | Our future

Canterbury is emerging from its historical past and the challenges of the last 15 years as a stronger, more united and resilient region that is poised to continue to grow and develop. With more affordable housing, education centres of excellence, an outstanding natural environment, and growing industries, the region is well set up to continue attracting more people into it.

The challenge the Canterbury RSLG faces, is how to best enable this growth and create a labour market and skills training environment that will meet the diverse needs of the region both now and into the future.

This first iteration of the Canterbury RWP focuses on three key sectors (Digital Technology, Manufacturing, and Healthcare and Social Assistance) and one demographic group (Rangatahi). These areas have been analysed in consideration of their impact across the labour market and in all 11 of Canterbury RSLG’s sub-regions. The plan’s aspirations also acknowledge other labour market sectors and demographic groups, including the unique challenges facing refugees and recent migrants, and the older workers in our region. Future RWPs will look to build on this work and also examine other key sectors, such as Construction and Hospitality, as the group progresses their mahi.

This RWP highlights labour supply and demand trends for Canterbury and takes early steps to identify where change is needed in order to achieve a highly skilled and coordinated regional labour market. It will stimulate discussion on the future skills needs of our region and inform how we tackle some of the issues, challenges and opportunities that we face in realising our vision for the future of Canterbury’s labour market.