Resilient Christchurch ups the ante as Canterbury competes for top tech talent

"If you want to be part of a tech scene that is going places, Canterbury could be the place for you."

With its unique location, close to ski fields and surf beaches, Christchurch offers more than other New Zealand cities in the way of lifestyle, short commutes and top notch work-life balance.

The region’s resilience in the aftermath of the devastating 2011 earthquake has spawned innovation and entrepreneurship; and a lot of that energy has been funnelled into IT and technology development.

As the city and wider Canterbury rebuilds, unique opportunities are cropping up across the IT sector.

One challenge this brings for Canterbury’s IT landscape in 2015 is accessing suitably qualified tech staff; with 78 percent of employers noting it as the top business challenge for the region in the latest Absolute IT employer survey.

And unsurprisingly, the biggest internal challenge for IT employers is holding onto the talent they already have and creating the all important positive workplace environment.

A Hub of Tech Innovation

Christchurch is home to some of New Zealand’s coolest little startups, and this pocket of IT innovators is only going to grow.

“If you want to be part of a tech scene that is going places, and is relatively free of traditional red tape (so potentially your ideas can be heard and could be put into action quickly) and has huge potential for serious career ladder climbing, Canterbury could be the place for you,” says Grant Burley, Director, Absolute IT.

Burley says the Christchurch Central Development Unit are working hard to give Christchurch a new life in the wake of the disaster, facilitating various precincts and projects that will give Christchurch a unique flavour.

For Burley, Christchurch’s Innovation Precinct is not unlike Auckland’s GridAKL, carving a space for tech industry leaders and entrepreneurial enterprises to sit alongside each other in an innovation hub.

“The Innovation Precinct is home to multiple buildings, and is about to become home to tech giant Vodafone and Kathmandu headquarters,” he explains.

“The EPIC building is another exciting tech environment in Christchurch that came to be early in the recovery phases of post-earthquake Canterbury.

“Thanks to sponsors like Google, Weta Workshop, BNZ and 2Degrees, EPIC fosters collaborative IT business efforts and boasts a campus designed by Google.

Furthermore, EPIC Centre Grounds is home to 20 ICT and high-tech focused companies, from software developers, to social media experts and the Government’s idea incubator, Callaghan Innovation.

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“The Centre’s focused on fostering collaboration by housing these like minded tech companies in the same place,” Burley adds.

“If there’s anything that Cantabrians learned from the Quake, it’s that working together gets things done faster and smarter.”

Culture of Canterbury

According to Burley, 42 percent of tech professionals in Canterbury believe their work-life balance is above average, the highest in New Zealand and a further 50 percent state average, this illustrates the unique working environment Christchurch city and the wider Canterbury region could offer you.

Burley says New Zealand tech employers are also becoming renowned for offering “some pretty cool workplace environments” and placing a huge amount on energy into creating a positive and fun workplace culture – and Christchurch is no exception.

Burley says that Canterbury IT employers are placing an increasing focus on giving their staff the workplace flexibility they’ve been asking for.

“We’re seeing employers give their staff the flexibility to complete their work between anywhere between the hours of 7am – 7pm,” he adds.

“It gives them the flexibility to work around school pick-ups and drop-offs and when they’re most productive, rather than being tied to their desk from 8:30-5pm so they’re ‘seen’ to be working hard.”

Unsurprisingly however, median base salaries in Canterbury are slightly lower than national averages, but according to Burley, the good news is as follows…

“Local tech employers are amping up their pay packages with added extras like health insurance, additional leave, mobile phone allowances and paid training,” he adds.

“Our latest Remuneration Report shows that 72 percent of tech professionals in the region are receiving added extras, up a whooping 14 percent since June 2014.”

As Burley also points out, Christchurch is home to many global leaders in IT business, including Jade Software, Tait Communications and Telogis.