25 May 2016

Christchurch - garden city or Antarctic gateway?

7:33 pm on 25 May 2016

Calls are being made for Christchurch to be better known as the gateway to Antarctica, rather than the garden city.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station research base.

The Amundsen-Scott South Pole station research base. Photo: The Art Archive / Global Book Publishing

Christchurch City Council set up an Antarctic Office earlier this year with the aim of investigating ways the city could grow its identity as a gateway to the ice.

Office director Eric Assendelft said at the moment Christchurch simply works as a logistics hub for those travelling to Antarctica or the Southern Ocean.

"The American Antarctic programme is based here by the airport, but you can drive straight past it without realising.

"The general public don't realise the important role we play, but at the moment that role is not being utilised to its full potential," Mr Assendelft said.

He said scientists and other staff come back from the ice with wallets full of cash and an abundance of leave, but they either travel to Australia for a holiday or head back home to the United States.

"We are a gateway but we are not telling the story of Antarctica, we are not making our own identity and history stick out."

There are five gateways to Antarctica - Hobart, Cape Town, Ushuaia in Argentina, Punta Arenas in Chile and Christchurch.

Explorers including Robert Falcon Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton used Lyttelton as their departure point for their exhibitions.

Mr Assendelft said a strategy was being developed to help turn Christchurch into a leading gateway and to promote that around the world.

"When people think about Christchurch they think of it as the garden city - one day we could be known as the gateway to Antarctica."

Mr Assendelft said the strategy was about acknowledging the research, infrastructure and innovation capabilities that could be developed in Christchurch.

"We want to create an Antarctic Hub out by the airport, where people can come and see the science that goes on behind the scenes and experience things unique to our relationship with Antarctica.

"If we establish the city with a strong identity as a gateway to the ice, we would have the ability to go out onto the international stage and discuss issues which affect Antarctica and the Southern Ocean such as over and illegal fishing and tourism.

He said the council's Antarctic Office was working with The American Antarctic Programme and other stake-holders around the city on the strategy.

Mr Assendelft will discuss Christchurch's opportunity to be a leading gateway city at The University of Canterbury on Wednesday evening.

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