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Friday 23 July 2021

Christchurch: An emerging center for

 Christchurch: An emerging center for innovation

 Creative minds in Christchurch are blending Māori culture and technology 

to create unique outcomes

Traditionally known as “the garden city”, Christchurch seems to have reinvented itself with an uprise in technological innovation. Making world-first strides in fields such as virtual reality, robotics, and anxiety and phobia-based exposure therapy.

In a city sparkling with modern buildings designed post-earthquake, the environment is perfect for creativity, and individuals such as Adam Hutchinson, Founder, oVRcome have used it to their advantage. Hutchinson has created a virtual reality app that helps people to overcome phobias and anxieties, using his own experience of social anxiety from when he was younger.

From fear of heights filmed on cliffs around Sumner, to fear of spiders filmed with tarantulas in Canterbury museum and access to Christchurch Airport for fear of flying, the app uses real life situations and locations to combat the anxiety. The beautiful New Zealand landscapes are the perfect backdrop for this exposure therapy.

Hutchinson said, “Christchurch is an amazing place to have a start-up, and, in my experience, you get so much support from Canterbury organizations to help grow. All it takes is an email and they’re happy to support you to come in and film. We know that we’re developing technology here that people all around the world are going to benefit from.”

Nestled in the heart of the University of Canterbury campus, the HIT Lab is unassuming in its appearance. Yet inside, world first initiatives are being built through a human centered approach to technology. Designing solutions around people rather than the application is how PhD student Rory Clifford works with Fire & Emergency NZ.

Clifford provides tools that virtually replicate the stress of a real-life fire situation so the firefighting team can increase their training before big wildfires happen.

Clifford said, “I think my Māori background has given me an amazing ability to connect with people, to manaakitanga (welcome), whakawhanaunatanga (make connections and relate to people) and establish positive relationships. It’s important to understand how other cultures work when working with different organizations.”

Clifford’s next project is called Marae Aotea, digitizing marae in New Zealand and capturing stories from kaumatua, or Māori elders, to redeliver virtually and keep them alive through future generations.

Blending Māori culture into the tech scene continues on the other side of Christchurch at Kaupapa Māori digital creative agency, Maui Studios Aotearoa. 


CEO Vincent Egan and Creative Director Madison ‘Mads’ Henry Ryan sought inspiration from Māori mythology for the title of their company, as Maui is looked at as an innovator and blazes his own path to overcome adversity. It’s a fitting vision for a Christchurch based company with creative decisions informed by their background.

“Our work is infused with our life force and people can feel that with the work we create,” Mads says. “The creatives outcomes have a Māori flavour to it. We have always been taught that who we are is imbued throughout everything we do. Because of our Māoritanga (Māori way of life) we can create unique outcomes that you don’t see too much of. This also speaks to the uniqueness of the content we’re creating.”

One of their current projects titled Sanctuary (www.sanctuary.maori.nz) transforms stories that are traditionally shared orally from kaumatua, or elders in Māori culture, into creative digital designs that continue to exist as people pass on.

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