Aussie 'bravado' on short supply in Christchurch

Australians are the most reluctant tourists to return to Christchurch after its devastating earthquake, according to the city's tourism head.

Australia is New Zealand's biggest source of tourists, and Christchurch is still struggling to debunk the perception across the Tasman that it is still one big disaster zone.

The February 2011 quake claimed 185 lives and devastated the CBD but the city is recovering.

Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter told the Trenz tourism conference in Queenstown today that tourists from China, south-east Asia and Europe were returning reasonably quickly, while Japanese and Korean visitors had shied away, but were starting to come back.

"Australia, surprisingly for a country that typically exhibits so much bravado, they have been very reluctant to visit," he said.

Mr Hunter said the main problem was that the aftermath of the 2011 quake was broadcast live in Australia for 72 hours.

"What was ingrained on the minds of Australians was a shattered inner city and rescue operation. They didn't see the fact that half of Christchurch, the western side, was in pretty good nick ... and none of the rest of the South Island was affected at all," he said.

The tourism body has promoted the idea of a South Island road trip rather than exclusively visiting Christchurch.

It has also doubled the number of Australian media the city is hosting to show them it's still operating. A media campaign in Australia will be launched to address some of the perceptions.

The good news is that the aftershocks are smaller and heading out to sea, according to seismologists.

Mr Hunter said life was "surprisingly normal" in Christchurch, the cordoned-off area in the CBD was shrinking and that many businesses had successfully relocated.

Crucially, he said, the earthquake had not affected attractions such as the Antarctic centre, Hagley Park, the Transalpine and Kaikoura train trips as well as the Air Force museum and Orana Park.