Hi Sue - welcome to the Board - funny how we always return to our roots at some stage!
Canterbury is a huge area with lots to offer and i am sure you will find a great place to start again...in the meantime check out www.worldisround.com
for some photos.
I am not sure about the permits etc. the way things change around here with immigration laws it could be totally different by the time you are ready to settle here so personally I wouldnt worry too much about things like that until you are closer, especially as it could be a couple of years.
Keep in touch, will be only too happy to help when I am able.n I lived in Christchurch for 10 years - its a nice city and is very British too. Now living in the North Island - certainly warmer than the south. Dont worry too much about the earthquakes - the great majority of them are very small and we dont even notice we've had one til we read the newspaper!