Christchurch is the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand and the seat of the Canterbury Region. The Christchurch urban area lies on the South Island’s east coast, just north of Banks Peninsula. It is home to 389,700 residents, making it New Zealand’s third most-populous city behind Auckland and Wellington.
The city was named by the Canterbury Association, which settled the surrounding province of Canterbury. The name of Christchurch was agreed on at the first meeting of the association on 27 March 1848. It was suggested by John Robert Godley, who had attended Christ Church, Oxford. Christchurch became a city by Royal Charter on 31 July 1856, making it officially the oldest established city in New Zealand.
The Avon River flows through the centre of the city, with an urban park located along its banks. At the request of the Deans brothers, the river was named after the River Avon in Scotland, which rises in the Ayrshire hills near to where their grandfather’s farm was located.
The usual Māori name for Christchurch is Ōtautahi (“the place of Tautahi”), originally the name of a specific site by the Avon River near present-day Kilmore Street and the Christchurch Central Fire Station. The site was a seasonal dwelling of Ngāi Tahu chief Te Potiki Tautahi, whose main home was Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. The Ōtautahi name was adopted in the 1930s. Prior to that the Ngāi Tahu generally referred to the Christchurch area as Karaitiana, a transliteration of the English word Christian.
The city suffered a devastating series of earthquakes between September 2010 and early 2012, with the worst of them soon after midday on 22 February 2011, in which 185 people were killed and hundreds of buildings across the city collapsed or suffered severe damage. By late 2013 1500 buildings in the city had been demolished, leading to an ongoing recovery and rebuilding project.
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