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Seattle’s sister city: Christchurch, New Zealand

New Zealand’s second largest city may be on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean, but it holds more in common with Seattle than you’d think.

The Christchurch Arts Centre is housed in a very old looking bricked building — it stands in a wash of a setting sun.

The Christchurch Arts Centre is one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

Photo by Michal Klajban

What could Seattle possibly have in common with a city ~7,400 miles away? Quite a lot, actually.

Christchurch, New Zealand is one of Seattle’s 20 sister cities, created to help keep peace in a post-World War II setting and foster easy exchanges of culture and information.

Seattle’s kept in close touch with this city, and the impacts can be seen in the wide variety of programs we’ve built together. But first, let’s get to know them a little.

A sweeping grassy hill slides into a opalescent blue ocean somewhere along the coastline near Christchurch, New Zealand.

Is someone playing the “Lord of the Rings” soundtrack in the distance? It’s clear why this country was picked for it’s filming.

Photo by Donovan Kelly

A quick introduction

Christchurch is located on the east side of New Zealand’s South Island and is the country’s second largest city with a population of ~384,800.

The city was founded around 1839, but it was inhabited long before by several Indigenous peoples — first moa hunters then the Ngati Māmoe and the Ngāi Tahu.

Both the history and landscape make Christchurch is an excellent place for folks who love exploring and learning in the great outdoors — with beautiful grassy hills made for hiking and crystal blue coastal waters that that just beg for a dip.

A group of SCSCA member stand smiling in downtown Seattle on a sunny day.

The Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association (SCSCA) is made up of about 50% of folks who have New Zealander heritage and 50% Seattleites who just love the country.

Photo via the SCSCA

What we have in common

Aside from the love for our natural surroundings, we also share a few key qualities that help bolster innovation. We’re both port cities, exist in proximity to tectonic fault lines, and have similar cultural goals when it comes to the arts and supporting local Indigenous communities.

The Seattle-Christchurch Sister City Association (SCSCA) developed several programs to boost both of our cities up, utilizing both our similarities and differences, such as:

  • Shared information about earthquake response. Christchurch was heavily impacted by one in 2010, and used the past 10+ years to develop better response technology for future cases.
  • High school and university student exchange programs
  • An in-the-works dance program that would send local choreographers to New Zealand to learn their styles
  • Gardens that feature the native plants of each other — In Seattle, we have the New Zealand Garden in the Washington Arboretum and Christchurch has the Pacific Connections Garden.

Learning more and getting involved

If you’re looking to get involved, the SCSCA is always looking for volunteers to help out during its various events. But attending one of their events is always a great way to learn more about the city.

Keep an eye out for features in the SIFF’s film festival or attend the SCSCA’s Summer Picnic in July.