The Southern Centre: multi-sensory experience

Learn, explore, create and stimulate your senses through the use of innovative lighting and sound technology.

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All Council facilities closed – COVID-19 updates

We’ve closed all of our Council facilities until further notice, to support the Government’s fight against COVID-19.

This includes pools and recreation centres, libraries, service centres, community facilities, the Christchurch Art Gallery and all our visitor’s centres in gardens and regional parks.

It’s important to proactively look after our mental and physical wellbeing. Whilst our centres are closed you can join us for workouts from the comfort of your living room. Join our daily Facebook live fitness classes.

All payments have been automatically frozen for all members (pool, fitness, multi, and Swimsmart) including direct debits. Expiry dates on concession cards will also be extended.

Please take care, be kind to yourself and others.

Follow us on Facebook at @ChchRecSport

More information

A multi-sensory experience

The Southern Centre is a multi-sensory environment for people of all ages and abilities. CCC Pioneer DM554

It is a unique facility with the ability to cater for the needs of the individual, empowering you to choose your own environment, make changes and control your leisure time. 

Interact with the smell machine, bubble column, shadow wall and more - all aimed at stimulating an individual's senses through smell, touch, light and sound. 


Who can enjoy the Southern Centre?

The Southern Centre is for everyone, however individuals who would most benefit are adults and children who have:

  • Learning differences
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Autism
  • Multiple disabilities
  • Anxiety or stress related problems 


3A multi-sensory environment is a relaxing space, which helps reduce stress levels and develop social skills.

Benefits of a multi-sensory environment:

  • promotes intellectual activity including memory recall
  • encourages relaxation
  • interactive equipment develops an understanding of  cause and effect
  • helps to develop language – encourages participants to make choices or indicate their preference
  • promotes social skills and helps lower stress levels
  • last of all, it's a fun environment.


The Southern Centre allows people of all ages and abilities to attend alternative recreational activity to meet their needs. 

Sensory sessions

Sessions run for 30 minutes for individuals or groups of up to 10 participants (does not include caregivers). We ask that a support person or parent please come and attend with the participant(s). 

Birthday parties

If you are looking for a unique experience, the Southern Centre is a great place to hold a birthday party. 

We provide a sensory session with a birthday theme and a personalised message. Birthday sessions last for 30 minutes and are available for groups of up to 10 participants (not including caregivers). (external link)

Swim combos

Combo sessions are also available, combining a sensory session at the Southern Centre and a swim at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre pool. 


Activity Standard fee Community Services and KiwiAble Leisure cardholders
Individual session $7.80 per person $5.80 per person
Birthday party $16.00 plus the individual price 

Swim combos

Activity Standard fee Community Services and KiwiAble Leisure cardholders
Adult swim combo $11.30 per person $8.50 per person
Child swim combo
(under 16 years)
$9.40 per person

$7.00 per person


Bbookings are essential

If you would like to book a sensory session at the Southern Centre:

  • Phone us: 03 941 8999 or 03 941 7016
  • Email us at:
  • Come see us in-person at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre, 75 Lyttelton Street, Somerfield, Christchurch

If you would like more information, facility tours are available on request. 

Opening hours

Day Opening hours
Monday to Friday 9am to 4.30pm
Saturday 10am to 1.30pm
Sunday 11.30am to 3pm


Level 1 Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre
75 Lyttelton Street


"One of the best half hours we have had. A safe and exciting place for exploring."  - Samantha.

"I have been coming here for 3 years with a Cerebral Palsy boy.  Always enjoys the experience.  Also great for my 2-year-old granddaughter.  Great staff."  - Raywyn.

"I enjoy taking my one-year-old to the Sensory Room. Having studied early childhood development I know the importance of sensory experiences for infants, toddlers and young children during their environment.  We will be back!" - Sally.

"I found the Southern Centre has been very beneficial to Service users in our care, who look forward to going.  Very relaxed after an experience with lots of things to do, changed up on a regular basis which keeps if interesting and fun.  Staff are very friendly and accommodating to the needs of our Service Users." - Cordelia.


CCC Pioneer DM534The Southern Centre is operated under a very successful partnership between the Christchurch City Council and the Southern Centre Charitable Trust.

The Christchurch City Council manages the daily operation of the Southern Centre, which includes staffing, general building requirements, processes and overhead costs.

The Trust is responsible for sourcing funding for the specialised equipment in the room, which includes new equipment projects and maintenance of equipment.

The original concept for multi-sensory rooms began in the Netherlands in the late 1970s and grew in popularity in both the UK and Europe.

The types and functions of sensory rooms have changed and morphed over the years and the Southern Centre is an extremely dynamic version of the early rooms.

This innovation and creativity have seen the Southern Centre recognised on the international stage, winning the World Leisure Award for Innovation and Excellence.

The first Southern Centre was located at QEII Recreation and Sport Centre until the February 2011 earthquake. It was then relocated to its current location at Pioneer Recreation and Sport Centre.