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Christchurch tourism returning following earthquake

Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region of New Zealand are beginning to return to normal following a decision by the National Crisis Management Centre to lift restrictions on all but essential travel to the city.

Tourists had been urged to leave following a devastating earthquake in late February, with more than 100 residents feared dead.

Central Christchurch was worst hit, with 10,000 homes and a number of buildings in the central business district destroyed.

Despite this, a number of key attractions have remained open, including the Air Force Museum, Willowbank Wildlife Reserve and the Tranz-Alpine train service.

The Chateau on the Park hotel has also re-opened.

Wider Canterbury Region

The focus of the recovery is likely to be the wider Canterbury Region, at least in the short term, with the areas of Akaroa, Kaikoura, Mackenzie Country and Hanmer Springs are all operating normally.

Officials are also quick to point out all services, including tourism businesses, in other parts of New Zealand are operating without disruption.

All New Zealand airports, including Christchurch International Airport, are open for international and domestic flights.

All major highways connecting Christchurch with other parts of New Zealand are open.

However, rail passenger services to and from Christchurch remain on hold while track damage is assessed.

Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter said: “We are very pleased that a lot of travellers have chosen to push ahead with their plans to holiday in Canterbury because in doing so they are helping our economy and our industry at what is a very difficult and challenging time.

“In the months ahead we are going to need people to support us and one tangible way they can do that is to continue using Christchurch as the gateway to Canterbury and the South Island.”