Nine influential incentive professionals from Australia and New Zealand embarked on a four-day familiarisation to Christchurch in April, initiated and organised by Christchurch Airport and assisted by the Christchurch and Canterbury Convention Bureau (CCCB).
The bespoke itinerary, dubbed CHC Delivered, was designed and hosted by and Liz Maxwell of ESP Ventures and Suz Baker of Eventionz. It brought together city, regional and coastal destinations for a seamless, in-depth look at what Christchurch can deliver.
CHC Delivered was a result of Christchurch Airport’s Creative Events Fund, established in 2016 to assist the development and promotion of new incentive programmes into Canterbury and to re-establish Christchurch’s reputation as an incentive destination. The goal of the fund was to have the ultimate Christchurch itinerary pitched and delivered by top local destination management experts. The region’s exceptional venues, superb food and wine, easy access, South Island landscapes and unique activities were all on show.
Liz and Suz wanted to showcase the local people, who are shaping Christchurch into a resilient city full of opportunity and uniqueness.
Together with Christchurch Airport, they designed the event around one strong, integrated theme centred on local heroes.
The theme started with a tantalising taste of what was to come leading up to arrival, with packages hand-delivered to guests, each containing story cards introducing some of the characters, personalities and artisans who make Christchurch so special.
This was the most well branded programme we have ever been on. We loved how the aspect of people were incorporated and the people and their stories are what we will remember most about Christchurch.
The theme for the night was south of the border, with a margarita welcome cocktail to set the scene. On a fine autumn evening the group walked less than a block to The George’s sister property, Hotel Montreal for pre-dinner drinks in the Polo lounge. Dinner was a short walk along the lively Victoria St restaurant precinct to an eclectic colourful vibrant home of authentic Mexican food.
Later guests could choose a short walk or luxury coach back to the hotel. Waiting in each room, guests received a storycard about one of the artisans they would meet the next day with a note about the schedule, a special signature gift - The George teddy bear- and a hand-bound compendium branded with CHC Delivered.
Day Two: Paddock to Plate - Waipara Valley, North Canterbury
The region’s food and wine was ripe for discovery on a day visit to the Waipara Valley and Black Estate winery, 45 minutes’ drive north of Christchurch.
Guests were greeted with coffee and tea picnic-style. Foraging with a local expert gave the group a chance to delve into the fertile clay and limestone pasture around the vines at Black Estate’s Netherwood vineyard. Later the delicate pickings appeared in a salad of lamb and lentils to accompany a shared lunch of wild mushroom soup, fresh gurnard fillets, potato mash, and a vegan beetroot ravioli and followed by a fresh peach and almond tart. They were matched with Black Estate’s Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vintages in the superbly designed contemporary black-washed cedar barn which houses the restaurant, wine tasting room and shop, with stunning views across the vineyard to the rolling Teviotdale Hills.
Before lunch the group had visited Iron Ridge Quarry Sculpture Park, deep in dramatic limestone landscape. The beautiful wacky works are set in a vast amphitheatre carved out of the limestone hills providing a stunning exhibition space.
Then it was a short drive to a truffle farm to meet the owner with her truffle dog. She told the fascinating story of her family’s work to develop high quality truffles in the region. The dog produced the goods too, putting on a fascinating show as she sniffed out truffles with lightning speed.
It was then back to The George for rest and relaxation in the sumptuous suites, before a very special chance to experience Christchurch Art Gallery’s exhibition space on a private tour with the Gallery director.
After drinks in the Gallery’s expansive glass foyer, it was time for a guided tour followed by an exclusive dinner set in style at the top of the gallery’s dramatic staircase, overlooking the sculptural lighting work of acclaimed New Zealand artist Bill Culbert.
A team of talented chefs presented a gourmet dinner in three courses and shared stories of fine fare. Guests were entertained by a talented singer and guitarist.
That evening guests returned to find another stylishly boxed gift, giving a taste of what was to come the next day. Along with this was another storycard and a note for the next day’s programme, and promise of breakfast in bed.
This was my first time in Christchurch and want to come back again. I was so impressed with the people’s stories and passion and particularly keen to pitch Annandale to my clients in Australia.
Day Three: Heli to Annandale with overflight of Akaroa
The next morning a surprise was in store for the group, who were ferried by luxury coach to Christchurch Airport. On a magic, sun-filled day the group took off in a fleet of three Airbus twin-engine helicopters, touring across Christchurch city to the top of the Port Hills, with stunning views across Banks Peninsula’s coastal bays, landing 15 minutes later above the secluded luxury homestead at Annandale.
Annandale’s coastal farm escape includes four luxury villas set on a 1600 hectare working farm an hour’s drive from Christchurch at Pigeon Bay. Built in the 1880s, The Annandale homestead has been restored to create a luxurious five-bedroom home with boardroom facilities for 12, making it an ideal corporate retreat. Annandale’s food footprint is small, with paua and mussels on the coastline, heirloom fruit trees in the orchard, extensive vegetable gardens and sheep and cattle on the farm.
Before a fresh and delicious lunch featuring Akaroa salmon, seated in the stately garden of Annandale’s homestead, guests could choose to cruise around Pigeon Bay to see Hector’s dolphins - the world’s smallest dolphin, seals and penguins. From the water, they also got a glimpse of Annandale’s two other secluded waterfront properties, Scrubby Bay and Seascape, both award-winning architectural masterpieces.
After a leisurely lunch, the helicopters were waiting to take the group on a tour across Akaroa, the historic French village on Banks Peninsula with a spectacular harbour and then across the coast to the Pacific Ocean, before touring back above the hills and plains to the airport base.
Later that day, a walking tour of Christchurch’s new city centre proved an enlightening story of innovation and creativity as the group looked at new buildings, heritage renovations, plans for new builds and inspirational street art and gap filler projects, illustrating the city’s spirit of resilience and change.
A visit to Christchurch was not complete without a trip on the city’s heritage tramway, and the group was able to enjoy a leisurely circuit before dinner. They were collected by the tram near the hotel, and served pre-dinner drinks. Delivered to the beautifully lit entranceway of the Great Hall at the Arts Centre, they could see the magnificent neo-Gothic restored it its former glory. A beautifully decorated table for 20 guests in the centre of the Hall was the centrepiece for fine dining and live jazz from Christchurch’s best young talent, who had returned to the city especially for the evening.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel was the guest of honour and she warmly welcomed the audience, saying their itinerary was designed to capture the city’s essence and the sense of excitement here. “This is a fun, energised city to visit, and you can see it is a city of real opportunity,” she said.
Later that evening guests arrived back to The George to find another fascinating story card, and another special gift.
Day Four: Punting, high tea and retail therapy
The following morning was a visit to another of Christchurch’s restored gems, Mona Vale Homestead, a short drive from The George. Set in exquisite gardens on the banks of the Avon river, punting and high-tea were the order of the day, after a burst of energy on the Iris Lawn with a Segway team challenge and a tour of the homestead and venues spaces. Mona Vale’s high tea is an innovative fresh approach to an age-old ritual with a dazzling array of small morsels served with Veuve Cliquot champagne and a selection of high-quality teas.
Christchurch’s favourite shopping haven, Ballantynes department store was the next stop, and a chance to look at the new retail area springing up in the Cashel St precinct. Later, with shopping bags in hand, the group walked through the city to the Innovation Precinct, an area of brand new and heritage funky buildings housing start-ups and high profile technology companies. Here they met the team at a Christchurch favourite dumpling haunt, and had fun learning how to make delicious Shanghai-style steamed dumplings.
After lunch, it was a leisurely trip back to the airport for late afternoon flights back to Australia and Auckland for the guests, who were all wowed and exhilarated by their experiences in Christchurch.
The whole programme was so professionally executed and we will certainly remember this – it stacks up amongst the best worldwide.