The New Zealand region of Canterbury (Māori: Waitaha) is mainly composed of the Canterbury Plains and the surrounding mountains. Its main city, Christchurch, hosts the main office of the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Regional Council (EnvironmentCanterbury) and the University of Canterbury.
People in New Zealand commonly refer to people from the Canterbury region as Cantabrians. Coastal and mountain experiences combine to make Canterbury a place where there's something for every traveller. Here you'll find many wonderful things to enjoy within one region. The Canterbury Region includes a large central portion of the east coast of the South Island, centred on the city of Christchurch. From the wonderful sandy beaches on the coast to the rugged peaks of the Southern Alps, the Canterbury scenery is fantastic. Panoramic views are everywhere from the ocean to the mountains. Great areas of pastureland are criss-crossed with a palette of colours and amazing clouds punctuate the vast amount of sky. The highest point in the region is spectacular Aoraki/Mount Cook, New Zealand’s highest mountain, which stands at 3,754 metres (Aoraki is Maori for Cloud Piercer). At the other end of the scale, the submarine trenches off the coast of Kaikoura are thousands of metres deep, providing an ideal environment for the whales, dolphins and seals that live there. Canterbury is New Zealand's largest region, with an area of 45,346km².
Population: (June 2009 estimate) 559,200
The region is traditionally bounded in the north by the Conway River and to the west by the Southern Alps. The locals are varied in this region but most are from rural backgrounds. There are now many different nationalities in most areas of Canterbury. The southern boundary is the Waitaki River. The area is commonly divided into North Canterbury (north of the Rakaia River), Mid Canterbury (from the Rakaia River to the Rangitata River), South Canterbury (south of the Rangitata River) and Christchurch (Christchurch City). For many purposes South Canterbury is considered a separate region, centred on the city of Timaru. When the current local government structure was introduced in 1989, Kaikoura District was part of the Nelson-Marlborough Region. That region was later abolished and replaced with three unitary authorities. Kaikoura was too small to function as an independent unitary authority and was moved under the jurisdiction of the Canterbury Regional Council. However, in the minds of many people, Kaikoura remains part of Marlborough. The population of Canterbury region is 559,200 (June 2009 estimate), making it the largest region in the South Island and the second largest region in New Zealand by population.
Land area: 45,346 km2 (17,508.2 sq mi)
Main Centres: Christchurch, Kaikoura, Hanmer Springs, Arthurs Pass, Darfield, Springfield, Methven, Akaroa, Lake Tekapo, Timaru.
There were only 500 Māori living in Canterbury when European settlers first arrived in the mid-19th century. They were part of the Ngāi Tahu tribe that occupied the South Island. Decimated by civil wars from 1810 to 1815, the tribe was almost exterminated between 1830 and 1832 in attacks by the northern Ngāti Toa, led by Te Rauparaha.
In 1848 Edward Gibbon Wakefield and John Robert Godley established the Canterbury Association to plan a Church of England colony in the South Island. The province began to develop about 1850 and during this era Benjamin Mountfort, as the first provincial architect, designed many civic and ecclesiastical buildings in the Gothic Revival style. The Canterbury Province was formed in 1853 following the passage of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1852. The province was abolished, along with other provinces of New Zealand, in 1876. Since human settlement the Canterbury Plains have been highly modified and now support a large agricultural industry. Very little of the original forest cover now remains. However, the amount of forest on Banks Peninsula is increasing after being depleted to about 1 percent of its original forest cover.
Activities: What to do there?
Take a hot air balloon ride - with the province’s magnificent vistas there is magic in the air as you float though clear blue skyand experience the vastness of the Canterbury Plains, with their stunning backdrop of the Southern Alps. Kaikoura, a leisurely two-hour drive north of Christchurch offers wonderful coastal scenery where fur seals frolic in the sea or sunbathe on the rocks just metres from the shore. Take a trip out on the ocean and check out the dusky and Hector's dolphins, sometimes you might be lucky enough to see giant sperm whales. Even better, take a plane ride and see the whales from the air, a magnificent sight. Not far from Kaikoura is the scenic alpine and thermal village of Hanmer Springs. Since 1859 this spa town has attracted visitors seeking to relax, unwind and ease their aches and pains in the soothing mineral waters. In Canterbury there is everything from skiing, mountain biking, forest walks, river rafting and bungy jumping, or you can take time out to discover the winemakers of the beautiful Waipara Valley. The TranzAlpine is a spectacular train journey that takes you from Christchurch to Greymouth on the West Coast. Inland from Christchurch and only an hour away are the magnificent Southern Alps. The thriving towns of Ashburton and Timaru also have plenty to offer, particularly for petrol heads with a Wheels Week and international motor racing.
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