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'Baby Come Back' - Christchurch sings out for Kiwis to return as economic slowdown bites

Christchurch is in the throes of an economic slowdown as rebuild activity drops from a post-quake peak.

However, there's optimism that some of the Anchor Projects underway will help turn that around.

A call is going out for New Zealanders to go back to central Christchurch, in an advertising campaign featuring the song Baby Come Back.

It's one way the region is trying to encourage more growth.

"That's around getting people to come back in and explore the new Christchurch. And that not only applies to residents but actually people outside Christchurch as well," said Leeann Watson of the Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce.

A recent report shows that the city, following the post-earthquake boom, is now growing at just half the national rate, with construction at its lowest level in five years.

Anna Elphick of economic development and promotional agency ChristchurchNZ says a transition from the rebuild was expected.

"We've been expecting that transition out of the rebuild for a while now. And if anything I think that the rebuild transition has been more gentle than we'd initially anticipated," she said. 

Along with a slump in the city's economic growth, the unemployment rate is at a seven-year high as the rebuild winds down. 

On top of a push to bolster the retail and tourist sector, it's hoped Anchor Projects will make a real difference.

"What we are looking forward to is obviously the Convention Centre coming on stream in Christchurch next year. That will be a real boost for this economy," Ms Watson said. 

And it's hoped Christchurch businesses can capitalise on the planned rebuilds of both Scott Base and the American base, McMurdo, in Antarctica.

"They're really well-placed to leverage those rebuild opportunities, which are multi-year and multi-million-dollar opportunities, across those bases," Ms Elphick said.

Canterbury makes up 12 per cent of the New Zealand economy.

"It's very important to the overall economy and particularly our export sector. And that's where over time we're likely to see the strengths," said Nick Tuffley, ASB chief economist.

For now, they're just going to keep encouraging people to come back, and experience the new Christchurch.

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Rebuild activity has dropped from a post-quake peak. Source: 1 NEWS