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Christchurch Monopoly (Image: Archi Banal)
Christchurch Monopoly (Image: Archi Banal)

SocietyNovember 10, 2023

What’s going on with the Christchurch Monopoly board?

Christchurch Monopoly (Image: Archi Banal)
Christchurch Monopoly (Image: Archi Banal)

The Ōtautahi Monopoly features some very odd additions and some unforgivable snubs. Alex Casey investigates. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no New Zealand city is a real city until it makes a trendiest something-or-other Time Out list, gets a surprise visit from Ed Sheeran, or becomes a special edition Monopoly board. Last week, Ōtautahi was bestowed with the latter honour when a local version of the beloved board game was launched in the central city and “Mr Monopoly” celebrated by taking his top hat, cane, and insatiable appetite for cash over to feed the giraffes at Orana Wildlife Park (now a bargain at just 60 Monopoly dollars, or ₩).

The board features classic locations such as Christchurch Cathedral (350₩) and Hagley Park (400₩) at the bougie blue end, and the Avon River (₩60) joining Orana Wildlife Park at the bargain bin brown end. The Isaac Theatre Royal (₩100) made the cut, as did the International Antarctic Centre (₩120) and the Christchurch Tram (₩160). “There’s so much to love about our city and now everyone will get to experience that on the Monopoly board,” mayor Phil Mauger said. “This really highlights the beauty and wide range of activities on offer.”

But there are also some bizarre additions and omissions on the board. For a city built around “The Four Aves”, there’s not a single street featured. There is, however, both the Avon River AND Punting on the Avon which, although the preferred commuting method for people scared to turn right, does seem like overkill (also, if you are going to double dip, surely give us Hagley Park AND the Botanic Gardens?!) There’s also no art gallery, no New Brighton Pier, no Riverside Market, but there are THREE malls and TWO high schools (which actually checks out).

Needless to say, Reddit was miffed with some of the choices. “Is that really the best they could do?” one user wrote. “How super lame is this?” said another. “There are so many missed opportunities.” Lesser-known outfits such as restaurants Inati and Joe’s Garage (a nationwide franchise which originally began in Queenstown) also left people feeling confused, while the sponsorship of “Chance” by the Christchurch Casino left a sour taste. “I’m assuming most of it is glorified advertising, definitely takes the shine off of it unfortunately,” one Redditor posited. 

This isn’t the first time a custom Monopoly board has caused controversy in New Zealand. Christchurch Monopoly marks the fifth local iteration to be launched by Winning Moves, whose fully-licensed custom Monopoly range includes everything from Cotton On Monopoly to North Sydney Innovation Network Monopoly. Auckland was the first to be Monopolised in 2013, with Mr Monopoly walking around the outside of the Sky Tower (₩400) with Blues players Joe Edwards and Patrick Tuipulotu. Later, he would roll an enormous set of dice with Len Brown. 

However, Aucklanders in the “community” felt a sinking in their “chest” after a humiliating typo was discovered in the first edition (“Karanghape Road”, ₩220). Winning Games apologised and said the mistake would be rectified in future editions, but there were more Monopoly controversies still to come. In 2017, Wellingtonians were shocked to find that the top three most popular spots voted for on social media – Wainuiomata, the Roxy cinema, and the Bucket Fountain, did not make the special edition Wellington Monopoly board. 

Tensions also arose in the capital over the exclusion of the iconic Wellington Cable Car, which chief executive Simon Fleisher revealed was because they couldn’t afford to pay Winning Moves for the opportunity. “They wanted to charge us for being part of it,” he told Stuff. “We are a relatively small outfit and we just haven’t got the money to spend to be a part of that.” Shane Harmon, chief executive of Westpac Stadium (₩160) revealed a “commercial relationship” with Winning Moves to secure their place on the board, but would not disclose details.

Palmerston North was the next city to be immortalised in capitalist cardboard in 2021, with a limited run of 2,500 causing chaos among collectors. One of them told Stuff he was even targeted by scammers who pretended to be a council page. “The scammers did it really well,” he said at the time. “We had mutual Facebook friends who were councillors… they asked for my credit card details, which I thought was a bit weird.” Southland followed suit in 2022 with a smash hit sellout first and second edition including cheese rolls in the Community Chest

The Monopoly Man hits Riverton

Which brings us back to Ōtautahi Christchurch, the latest city to be transported into Monopoly’s impossible-to-imagine-world of greedy landlords and passive income, unjust incarceration rates and extraordinarily rare free parking. The two local high schools that made the board told The Spinoff they were suitably chuffed with the inclusion. “The excitement amongst our students, staff and our alumnae has been fabulous, and there is a real sense of civic pride within our community,” said Diana Patchett, executive principal of St Margaret’s College (₩300). 

Over at Christ’s College (also ₩300 via gender equality), executive principal Garth Wynne was equally stoked. “It is very special to now feature as a city landmark on the board of the latest Monopoly edition,” he said. Although neither school would comment on specific commercial details, Wynne did reveal that some Christ’s College cash had gone to the big top hat-toting banker in the sky. “We have supported our place on the Ōtautahi Christchurch Monopoly board with a contribution to the cost of producing this collector’s edition,” he said. 

The Arts Centre was snubbed

Winning Games did not respond to questions about how the final squares were decided, what commercial arrangements had been entered into, or the final vote tally from the public, but The Spinoff did hear back from some of the beloved local spots that didn’t make the cut. “We feel like we’ve been sent straight to jail without passing Go,” said Peter Tonks, owner of Alice in Videoland. “But it’s not just us – the whole SALT district has been slighted! Luckily our 30,000 title DVD library offers a cinematic escape from this public humiliation.”

Philip Aldridge, director of Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre, graciously praised the creators of the custom game, despite their decision to omit New Zealand’s largest collection of heritage buildings from the final board. “They obviously did some solid research, including exhaustive examination of the special Act of Parliament under which we operate, which clearly led them to conclude, rightly, that The Arts Centre is held in trust for all the people of Christchurch and therefore cannot be sold,” he said in a statement to The Spinoff. 

“I am, however, disappointed in the lack of a Community Chest option where players can donate a portion of their gains, tax-free, to support The Arts Centre and trust this oversight will be remedied in the next edition.”

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