A great idea for Wellington

May 28th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Imagine heading down to Oriental Bay in July and looking out over the harbour on one of those typical calm, blue sky Wellington winter days. 

You know, the ones that follow the southerly storms and remind us of why we live here. Now imagine doing all this while lounging in a hot, outdoor, saltwater swimming pool. 

One Wellington businessman is working on making the fantasy a reality.

Prefab owner Jeff Kennedy is a member of the Better Te Aro Collective, which wants to rejuvenate the central city.

His idea is to create a hot pool complex next to Freyberg Pool, where the old open air, saltwater Te Aro Baths once were.

That’s a fantastic idea. Wellington has many great summer days (and still getting them in late May!) but the water is never warm. A heated outfoor recreational pool would be great.

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Would be very popular with locals and tourists.

Hot Wellington

February 18th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington is on track for the hottest February on record, and residents are feeling the burn.

Long days and hot nights have seen people struggling to get to sleep, doctors have noticed cases of “nasty” sunburn, and cicadas have appeared in deafening throngs.

Niwa climate scientist Gregor Macara said the spate of hot temperatures this month had been “quite remarkable”. 

“We certainly are well on track for the hottest February on record [since 1927].

“It’s subject to change, but the temperatures are tracking so high it’ll take quite a change to bring those back down. It’s quite exciting.”

The temperatures were remaining hot through the night, too, MetService communications meteorologist Lisa Murray said.

“We’ve had a run of warmer days and quite high overnight minimums, we’re talking up to 19 degrees overnight.

Wellington has been stunning the last few weeks – hot days, no rain, little wind. Wellingtonians have been loving it.

I was having coffee with a mate who works for a multinational oil company. I jokingly suggested to them that their company take out full page ads in the Dom Post claiming credit for the great summer 🙂

Guest Post: Justin Lester on Wellington alive and kicking

December 17th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

A guest post by Wellington Deputy Mayor Justin Lester:

When I was first elected to Wellington City Council in 2010 the prevailing mind-set was that Wellington was facing a challenging time and the Council should batten down the hatches. Council was subject to comments that Wellington was stagnating or even dying. The advice was to consider implementing service cuts like closing libraries and swimming pools and to keep any new investment to a minimum.

I disagreed.  I thought the city needed to take a good look at itself and where its comparative advantages lay. Wellington needed to be bold and adopt a counter-intuitive Keynesian approach, like it had done in the 1990s. The reality was that if Government was prioritising it’s investment in Auckland and Christchurch and private business was contracting, then local government needed to step up.

Which is what we have done. It was from this that the Council’s economic growth agenda emerged.  The agenda was designed to stimulate jobs and growth. When I was appointed Deputy Mayor in 2013 I sought the role of Chair of the annual and long-term planning process, where my focus was to help set out the Council’s 10 year vision and investment programme and work towards its implementation.

We have reached a critical first achievement of this vision.

Movie Museum and Convention Centre

Recently Wellington City Council announced its intention to proceed with a combined Movie Museum and Convention Centre on Cable St.

The Movie Museum, backed and inspired by Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor, is a monumental project for our city. It will be an international drawcard and is could feasibly rival Te Papa, the Cake Tin or any other undertaking in Wellington’s recent history. In the 150 years since Wellington became New Zealand’s Capital, I can only think of a handful of moments that have been as significant.

To put it in context, 50 years after the release of the Sound of Music 300,000 people visit Salzburg to see the film’s shooting locations. New Zealand has had a similar experience with The Lord of the Rings. This year, in the unlikely location of Matamata, 400,000 mainly international tourists will descend upon Hobbiton. They will take selfies in the Shire and have a beer at the Green Dragon. Many will then head to Rotorua, Queenstown and probably fly straight back home via Auckland.

The Movie Museum will change tourism behaviour in New Zealand. It will become the most popular man-made attraction in New Zealand and Wellington will be front and centre on every tourist’s map.

Our new Convention Centre will act as a neat foil to Movie Museum’s lure given the co-location of the two sites.  It will provide a hosting facility for local, national and international delegates in the city. If we didn’t build it we could have lost $17m a year from our existing conventions market and by co-locating the two facilities I believe we will stimulate additional visitor growth and spending, which will in turn boost local businesses and generate jobs.

Can Wellington afford this and other proposed projects?

Wellington is in a very strong financial position. Of course, you might think, he would say that. But this isn’t my opinion; it comes from Standard and Poor’s (S&P).

S&P recently confirmed its AA credit rating of Wellington City Council and, for a second year in a row, considered Council’s credit rating to be higher than that of the Crown’s. S&P stated: “We view Wellington City’s stand-alone credit profile to be higher than the New Zealand sovereign, but have capped the ratings at the sovereign level. The ratings reflect our views of the council’s very strong financial management and budgetary flexibility, strong liquidity, and low contingent liabilities.” Officially, it is impossible for a council to outrank the crown, hence the equal rating.

The S&P rating also allows WCC to borrow at low interest rates and save a significant amount that would otherwise be spent on interest.

Regarding debt levels, At the end of the 2014/15 financial year Wellington City Council’s debt was 84 per cent of revenue based on net debt of $346 million against operating revenue of $451m. Wellington City Council also has investments valued at $381m.

In comparison, gross government debt was $86.1 billion on revenue of $66.6b and debt as a percentage of revenue was 130 per cent. The 2014/15 Auckland City Council annual report shows it had debt of $7.3b against operating income of $3.6b. Debt as a percentage of income in Auckland was 202 per cent.

The table below also shows how Wellington fares financially when compared with Auckland:

Auckland Wellington
GDP per Capita 2014 US$43,700 US$70,000
Economic growth 2.6%pa. 2.4%pa.
Population 1,529,000 206,000
Rate payers 518,784 75,613
Average rate $2,636 $2,163
Operating surplus/revenue 13.6% 17%
Operating + capital deficit as % of revenue (29%) 2011-2015

(19%) 2013-2017

(2.8%)

(6.6%)

Debt forecast 2017 $8,176m $446m
Debt as a % of Revenue 2017 257% 107%
Interest as a % of Revenue 2017 14.5% 6.4%

The comparison shows Wellington has a very robust balance sheet and a solid financial platform from which we can invest prudently in projects that further stimulate Wellington’s growth, boost business and create jobs.

But we also need an effective, cohesive Council that can push through our economic programme. In future I look forward to helping make Wellington perform even better.

 

 

 

Wellington combined convention centre and movie museum

December 8th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington will host a combined convention centre and movie museum, with backers comparing it to a “Disneyland” in the capital.

Wellington City Council is expected to approve a land purchase for the $134.4 million project on Tuesday, hoping to give the region’s economy a multi-million dollar boost.

The three-storey building on Cable and Wakefield streets will include a 6000sqm convention centre on the top floor, capable of hosting 1100 people, and a 10,000sqm movie museum on the bottom two floors.

Sounds exciting. The movie museum is an awesome idea.

1,100 capacity for a convention centre seems pretty small. That’s around the same as the Michael Fowler Centre.

Construction will start next year and is expected to be completed by 2018.  

The Movie Museum Limited, a company formed Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor, will run the museum which will feature many props from the two Wellington film stalwarts own considerable collection.

Positively Wellington Venues will manage the convention centre.

Great. But will the rent they pay cover the interest on the $134 million? Not against a ratepayer contribution as both these facilities would attract tourism, but want to know how much.

Museum project Director George Hickton said it would draw from one of the most valuable collections of Hollywood memorabilia in the world, with thousands of the priceless designs, props, models and set pieces.

The museum will have permanent and temporary exhibition spaces, a retail shop, cafe and permanent offices.

Again sounds great.

A new convention centre was needed because existing facilities in the city were aging, too small and often not available. 

True, but is 1,100 enough?

The project was already funded within the Long Term Plan but council would consult because the museum was being brought forward by four years. It would have no effect on the ratepayers, Wade-Brown said.

Council has said that the construction alone would provide 440 jobs, with another 568 ongoing jobs created by the centre.

The project was expected to contribute $36m per annum to the Wellington economy and attract about 350,000 visitors a year. 

Always have some scepticism over these projections, but I am sure both will be beneficial.

A new Wellington-Hutt link

November 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A $35 million seaside path linking Wellington and the Hutt Valley has been confirmed.

The NZ Transport Agency announced on Friday it had plumped for the more expensive seaside route for a cycle and pedestrian pathway to finally unite the valley and the city, and siphon cyclists off the busy highway.

Consent applications were expected to be lodged next year and the agency would look to start construction on the pathway in 2019 at the latest.

Wellington Cycling Action Network spokesman Patrick Morgan said the decision was a long time coming, with calls for a cycleway mentioned in Hansard records from 1905.

“This ticks all the boxes, it’s going to be a great tourism asset, it’s going to ease traffic congestion and make parking easier in Wellington.”

He said the pathway would boost cycle safety by drawing riders away from the highway.

“Most people can’t travel between the Hutt and Wellington by bike, because they don’t want to mix with State Highway 2 traffic.”

There is a sort of cycleway at the moment but it is very narrow and stops 250 metres from Petone, on the wrong side of the road. So to get to Petone you have to then cycle into oncoming traffic!

A proper dedicated path for cycling, walking and running will be very popular.  Once it is built I’ll be brunching in Petone a lot more!

In a rare moment of motorist and cyclist unity, the Automobile Association’s motoring affairs general manager Mike Noon said the announcement was “very good news”.

“It’s extremely good news because the current route is inadequate and forcing people to ride on the road, which is a much higher risk.”

Agency central regional director Raewyn Bleakley said the preferred option would act as a buffer against events such as the 2013 storm that saw waves crashing onto the railway and highway, “contributing to massive disruption”, she said.

Frith said the extended seawall would prevent debris being blown inland from the sea and would be designed to “minimise sea spray and, where possible, to withstand environmental effects”.

“It will be well maintained to ensure it is kept clear of any hazards for cyclists. The result will be a far safer route for cyclists, and a more resilient rail and road corridor.”

So good for motorists also.

Shelly Bay

September 7th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A San Francisco-style development is being tipped for Wellington’s Shelly Bay with ferries running to and from the city – and a cable car up the hill to a new housing area.

It is understood that high-end homes, restaurants, a brewery and  shops are also planned for the run-down area.

Speaking from China last night, property developer Ian Cassels confirmed that a cable car  had been considered in conceptual plans for the area.

Shelly Bay could potentially be the most beautiful and sought after area in Wellington. It has great views, but apart from the great Chocolate Fish cafe, is mainly crumbling ex Air Force buildings.

Work had started to investigate upgrading the decrepit Shelly Bay wharves to safe standards, which would cost an estimated $300,000 to $350,000.

East by West Ferry managing director Jeremy Ward confirmed he had met Cassels’ Wellington Company about starting a ferry service to Shelly Bay.

If the Shelly Bay wharf were fixed, the ferry company could start a service “pretty much straight away” for weekend runs.

A ferry from Queen’s Wharf to Shelly Bay is a great idea. I’d use it often.

Celia says come live in Wellington

August 30th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Celia invites Aucklanders to Wellington in the Herald:

We freed up downtown Wellington from restrictive minimum carparking requirements in the 90s and now more than 40 per cent of our population growth is downtown – where you can walk home from a late night out at karaoke or the ballet.

Wellington’s inner and outer Town Belts constrain urban sprawl and give us the bonus of great views, awesome mountain biking and a resurgence of birdlife spreading out from Zealandia so kaka regularly fly over Treasury, rather than biodiversity being confined to the outer edges of the city.

I’ve seen kaka in trees on our property several times. Zealandia has made a huge difference.

Getting into town for work is easy and it’s even easier to get around on foot. You can knock off half a dozen meetings a day without needing a taxi.

Yep. The maximum walking time to get anywhere is 30 minutes within the CBD.

According to data from CoreLogic, the Auckland region saw an increase in average property prices of 17 per cent to $840,165, during the 12 months to June. Wellington is sitting at $459,366, up 1.5 per cent over the same period.

Apartment prices have been almost static for the past few years.

Here’s an interesting question: What percentage of Wellington jobs are in the public sector? 30 per cent? 20? It’s actually 15 per cent. With our rapidly expanding innovation sector, Wellington is becoming more high-tech town than public sector.

The IT, gaming, film and cultural sectors are all booming.

Wellington has the highest concentration of web-based and digital technology companies per capita in New Zealand with 7373 people working in the ICT sector and Wellingtonians are twice as likely to work in ICT as people in other regions

Didn’t know it was twice as high here.

Wellington has more than 300 cafes, bars and restaurants, and claims more places to eat and drink per capita than New York.

And they range from the great curry and kebab shops to the top class restaurants such as Logan-Brown and Hippopotamus.  And it’s nice to be able to easily get a drink at 2 am if you want to carry on the conversation.

Our events calendar is packed. This month we had Visa Wellington On a Plate, the country’s largest culinary festival, teamed with Beervana, and LUX fusing light and kinetic art. September brings The World of WearableArt™ Awards Show, one of the world’s biggest stage spectacles and a showcase of completely unbridled international design imagination. Coming up we have the 30th anniversary of the New Zealand Festival, the pre-Olympic Games Sevens Wellington and many other premium events provide a good excuse for you to check out what else the capital has to offer.

Almost too many at times. You bounce from film festival to comedy festival to foreign film festivals.

It’s all so easy to get around. If you fancy a swim, kayak or paddleboard at lunchtime, you just wander down from your office. Or head into the Town Belt hills for a walk or a mountain bike. And back in time for that 1pm meeting.

One of the few cities in the world where you can mountain bike during your lunch break.

So Celia is right, Wellington is a great place to live and work. Just please, don’t all come at once.

Wellington the start up capital

August 11th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Technology Spectator reports:

New Zealand’s capital city Wellington is fast shaping up as a world-class start-up hub, according to a group of Australian firms who won a trip across the Tasman.

Five Australian start-ups were selected to tour Wellington’s tech and start-up scene as part of the Wellington Adds up competition, a government drive to encourage wider business investment and attract strong ICT talent.

The businesses, from Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Canberra, met with business and industry leaders, and on their return have touted Wellington’s “very progressive” community and small business support by government.

The city, which is home to about 200,000 people, boasts no capital gains tax, no payroll tax, along with liberal laws around equity crowdfunding.

I’ve met a fair few of the start ups in Wellington. They’re doing great things, often operating from a two person office on teh fringes of the CBD.

Kate Raynes-Goldie, founder of gaming consultancy start-up Games We Play, said her feeling was that the Wellington local government was an extremely supportive one.

“The government support and enthusiasm for games and tech startups in Wellington is impressive”, she said. “The scene is vibrant, with innovative co-working spaces like BizDojo and a range of incubator and accelerator programmes such as CreativeHQ, as well as R&D and capacity funding, which all offer great opportunities for game and tech entrepreneurs. I can only imagine what we could do in Australia with the same level of support.” …

Local entrepreneur Melissa Clark-Reynolds told Technology Spectator businesses like Xero could thrive due to the community’s support and willingness to ‘sit down and have a chat’ whenever needed.

“It’s more a village than a city, and everyone knows everyone,” she said. “If you hit a wall and need help, people will just say come see me tomorrow and we’ll have a coffee.

“There’s no class system here really we have a very flat society. Everyone is a peer and everyone is happy to help everyone, it’s a Kiwi thing. We’re fiercely egalitarian.”

It is a village. And people are always meeting to chat over coffee. Some days I have four to five coffee dates in a row!

Wellington town belt to expand

May 20th, 2015 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Wellington’s town belt looks set to increase in size by 100 hectares and be given greater legal protection.

The town belt is 400 hectares in size, and stretches from Mt Victoria to Te Ahumairangi Hill.

Wellington City Council drafted the Wellington Town Belt Bill in 2013 and the process of Parliament enacting it into law has begun. 

If it becomes law, 100ha of land will be added to the town belt from Northland, Highbury, Aro Valley, Mt Cook and Roseneath. 

Wellington would not be the great city to live in it is, without the Town Belt. Very supportive of seeing other areas of council parks formally made part of the town belt, to protect it.

Wellington cut off

May 14th, 2015 at 2:02 pm by David Farrar

Wellington is now cut off due to the rain, with SH1 and SH2 closed and all train lines also closed.

At this point in time I’d like to remind everyone that the Greens are against Transmission Gully. Their policy I presume would be everyone should walk home!

Duke of Wellington dies

January 2nd, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Wellington City is named after the (1st) Duke of Wellington. It has always amazed me that there is no prominent mention of this in Wellington, let alone a statue of the man we’re named after.

The Guardian reports:

Valerian Wellesley, the 8th Duke of Wellington, who has died aged 99, was a courteous and reticent man who devoted much of his life to Stratfield Saye, the estate in Hampshire of his illustrious ancestor Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, and to the titles and landholdings abroad which had been conferred on the 1st Duke after he famously routed Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.

The 8th Duke combined his stately living with devotion to the British Army and the preservation of the countryside. He could be as dogged as his famous forebear about what he thought to be questions of family honour and practical politics. Preserving Stratfield Saye, which the 1st Duke had bought from the £600,000 conferred on him by the British government for his war services, was first on the list of his priorities.

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is on the 18th of June. It is one of the most significant battles in the history of the world.

The Duke’s military career includes 60 different battles. He was also Prime Minister of the UK twice, and died in 1852.

One Council proposed for Wellington Region

December 5th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Local Government Commission announced:

The most significant reforms of a generation are proposed for councils in the Wellington region, under a draft proposal released by the Local Government Commission. Public submissions are now being sought, with a deadline of 2 March 2015.

A new unitary authority, the Greater Wellington Council, is proposed. It would take over the functions of the existing nine councils: Masterton District Council; Carterton District Council; South Wairarapa District Council; Upper Hutt City Council; Hutt City Council; Wellington City Council; Porirua City Council; Kapiti Coast District Council, and the Greater Wellington Regional Council.

The new council would have a shared decision-making structure. Power would be shared between the governing body (a mayor and 21 councillors) and 60 members of local boards. The mayor would be elected by voters of greater Wellington. Councillors and local board members would be elected from eight defined geographic areas.

The current nine Councils have nine mayors (incl WRC), 95 Councillors and 57 community board members.

The proposed structure would see eight local boards:

  • Wairarapa (10 members)
  • Upper Hutt (6)
  • Lower Hutt (10)
  • Kapiti Coast (9)
  • Porirua-Tawa (7)
  • Ohariu (6)
  • Lampton (6)
  • Rongotai (6)

The local boards would be more powerful than the ones in Auckland:

The Commission expects Wellington local boards to have greater power than Auckland local boards. This includes approving management plans for most local recreation, cultural, and sporting facilities,and a significant role in community development and promotion. For example, it includes local parks and reserves, recreational and community facilities, arts and cultural facilities and libraries. It also includes local community and cultural events, decisions about public spaces such as town centres and main streets, and grants to local groups. The Commission also expects local boards to have responsibility for local transport infrastructure, waste and recycling facilities, and local economic development initiatives

I think the proposed structure is a significant improvement over the status quo. However it will be bitterly opposed by some incumbent politicians and Mayors as they of course would lose their positions. If the proposal goes forward, it is likely there will be a referendum, and I don’t think there is a great desire for change – so it could well be lost. That is a pity though.

The Local Government Commission have no vested interest except what they think will best serve the residents of the region. They’ve look at all the pros and cons, and have recommended this model. My hope is the debate will be on those pros and cons.

Wellington does suffer from a lack of leadership. You have to get agreement from all nine Councils for things to happen.

The Dom Post editorial is in favour:

On balance, it’s a good call for Wellington to get the super-city treatment, as proposed by the Local Government Commission.

The inclusion of Wairarapa’s three councils, however, remains unconvincing, and should be reversed. …

But no-one should pretend that the boards will be some kind of boon for grass-roots democracy.

On the contrary, this is a move to concentrate decision-making powers for the region. The crucial funding and regulatory decisions will happen centrally. That’s the point of the exercise, and it’s why it is worthwhile.

The best reason for a merger is that it will give the city a louder, more consistent national voice. Wellington is treading water while Christchurch and Auckland, for different reasons, dominate central government attention.

The region needs leadership that can lobby powerfully for it. It also needs a coherent vision for how it will remain energetic and attractive in the coming decades. That is a task better suited to one mayor and 21 councillors instead of the current tangle of local, often headbutting chiefs.

I’m quite relaxed on whether or not the Wairarapa councils are included. Many of the home owners there work or live in Wellington so there are strong connections, but if they want their own Council, I’m fine with the Wellingtion Region just including Wellington, Hutt, Porirua and Kapiti.

Greens flogging dead horse

September 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Reviving the scrapped light rail system, introducing new electric buses and retaining a fleet of trolley buses are part of the Green Party’s $500 million vision for Wellington’s transport system.

The policy, released today, calls for money earmarked by the current National Government for upgrading and expanding the capital’s roading network to be spent on public transport, Green Party transport spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter said.

Wellingtonians could be taking light rail from the railway station out to Kilbirnie by 2020, and the airport and Miramar by 2025 under the plan, she said.

I can understand the Greens supporting light rail as a possibility before it was fully explored as an option. But the two Wellington Councils and NZTA commissioned a study of light rail and even Mayor Celia now agrees it is unaffordable and ineffective.

So why are the Greens still backing it? Because it is about a near religious belief in rail. It is nothing to do with enhancing transport.

Light rail was costed at $940 million, and providing benefits of just $30 million. The business to cost ratio is close to zero – 0.05. The Greens are proposing to waste around $3,000 per Wellington household. If you live in Wellington think about what you could do with $3,000 instead!

The Greens would also retain the city’s ageing trolley buses, at a cost of $70m for their upgrade.

That’s $70 million which won’t reduce congestion by one passenger. In fact it will make congestion worse. The new non trolley buses will make a commute five to ten minutes  faster. The Greens are against this!

I’d love us to have light rail and trolley buses if they were even marginally cost effective. But they’re not. The Greens are unable to accept reality, and are flogging dead horses. Except that if they are in Government we’ll be paying for those dead horses.

15 reasons to love Wellington

August 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Travel blogger Liz Carlson blogs at Young Adventuress 15 reasons why she loves living in Wellington, six months after arriving here:

  1. All the bays and all the beaches
  2. Hilly city
  3. Awesome brunch and coffee culture
  4. Mt Victoria
  5. Friendly and awesome Wellingtonians
  6. Cool marine life
  7. Hip bar scene
  8. Zealandia
  9. Honking in the Mt Vic tunnel
  10. Wellington cable car
  11. Middle Earth in Wellington
  12. Crazy roads
  13. Windy Welly
  14. Somes Island
  15. Sunday market and Te Papa

Not much on that list I would disagree with. We do live in a great city in Wellington. Would be nice if the water was a bit warmer at the beautiful beaches, but can’t have everything!

The Library bar is one of my favourite places in Wellington. I can happily spend hours there.

Also Somes Island is truly awesome. Have been there a few times. Kayaking over there from Petone is my preferred mode of travel to it!

Wellington trolleys to go

June 30th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

It’s a familiar commuter nightmare for Wellingtonians: your trolley bus becomes detached from its overhead line, and you and everyone in the buses behind you are stuck while the driver gets out and hooks it up again. All that is about to end with the demise of the trolleys in 2017 – but not everyone is happy about the decision to scrap them.

They are expected to be almost five minutes faster during your morning commute and 10 minutes quicker when the roads have cleared at night.

They should leave you breathing air that is almost 40 per cent cleaner in just three short years, and be comfortable, modern, reliable and less of a drain on your pocket as a ratepayer.

They are hybrid diesel-electric buses – and after a near-unanimous vote by Greater Wellington Regional Council on Thursday, they are now the future of public transport in Wellington.

Like most Wellingtonians I have an emotional attachment to the trolleys, but the decision is a sensible one.

The Wellington Gold Awards

June 20th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Malaghan Institute of Medical Research won the supreme The Dominion Post Gold Award at last night’s 2014 Wellington Gold Awards.

The institute also won the Cyber Gold category for research into cancer immunology. Awards director John Dow said the institute was “New Zealand’s leading independent medical research institute with a 30-year history of finding better treatments for cancer, asthma and allergies.

“Their world-class technology underpinned advances in cancer immunology research that led to the prestigious Science [magazine] naming their work the worldwide scientific breakthrough for 2013.

“If they can commercialise their cancer research, and that is the key for them, then you could find that we’ve got [something like] another film industry on our hands in Wellington.”

The Malaghan Institute are very worth winners. They are world class.

The science theme was evident in other category winners, notably Matakina Technology, which won Global Gold for its hi-tech suite of tools revolutionising breast cancer screening, and Honevo by HoneyLab, which picked up the Discovering Gold for creating a treatment for acne, nappy rash and rosacea from Kanuka superhoney.

The company plans to capitalise on the new market of “Pharmanaturals”.

Also honoured last night in The Dominion Post’s 2014 Tribute to a Wellington Icon was Sir Peter Jackson, the movie titan behind the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies.

In presenting Jackson’s award to his representative, Matt Dravitzki, Fairfax central region general manager Gerard Watt outlined the producer’s humble beginnings as one of the last apprentice photo engravers at The Evening Post. Jackson’s early splatter movies – Bad Taste, Braindead, and Meet the Feebles – also had a link with The Evening Post , whose staff were often roped in as extras.

The Dominion Post-sponsored Gold Awards were held in front of an audience of more than 850 at the TSB Bank Arena.

I was a guest of the organisers at the awards last night. Was amused to be at the Chow Brothers table 🙂

But it was great to see so many superb Wellington companies and organisations competing and winning. Wellington may indeed be losing some corporate head offices to Auckland, but the variety of small to medium sized innovative entities we have is amazing.

A five star hotel for Wellington

May 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

A five-star Hilton Hotel with a vast conference centre could be open and taking bookings in Wellington within three years.

Wellington City Council has confirmed a 165-bed Hilton would include a purpose-built, 2500-capacity conference centre, making it the third-largest in New Zealand should it open as hoped in 2017.

That’s superb news for Wellington. We need both a top hotel, and a conference centre.

The Park Royal (whatever it is now called) managed to block a Hilton being built a few years ago (would have been to replace that eyesore indoor sports arena by Dockside), so hopefully they will not be able to use the RMA to block them this time.

The cost of the Hilton hotel-conference centre has not been disclosed, but it would provide about 350 new jobs. Head developer and investor Mark Dunajtschik confirmed it would be built in Cable St, opposite Te Papa, should the proposal get the green light.

Will be very close to Courtney Central, which is dying slightly. So this may help.

The council would provide an as-yet unspecified amount for the project, but only if the business case, which was still being developed, stacked up and was approved by the full council next month.

There would be a consultation period for the public to have its say.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said financial input from the council would most probably be justified.

I’m all for a hotel and convention centre, but not convinced ratepayers should help fund it.

Council economic spokeswoman Jo Coughlan said a large convention centre would enable Wellington to tap into the lucrative Australian market.

“Those convention-goers tend to spend $3000 a trip, compared to a domestic convention-goer, who spends about $1000. It will have a big impact.” …

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said that if the Hilton was built, more foreigners and New Zealanders would visit the city for conferences. “At a conservative level, we think it would grow . . . by about 18 per cent.”

I’m sure there would be be a boost to tourism and the Wellington economy from the proposed hotel and convention centre. But projected benefits tend to always be wildly optimistic. A ratepayer contribution, if necessary, should be modest.

 

A mountain biking capital

April 30th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Wellington could become the urban mountainbiking capital of the world, a group of city bike enthusiasts say.

They have asked Wellington City Council for $60,000 to create a business plan and unlock “a unique global opportunity” which could bring multimillion-dollar benefits.

The attraction lies in the central city’s proximity to world-class tracks which could put it up with Rotorua and Queenstown as a destination for mountainbikers in New Zealand.

The next time I’m in Queenstown, I’m definitely taking a mountain bike up the Gondola. Looks great fun. A visit to Rotorua to mountain bike is also planned.

Wellington Offroad Riding Department instructor Ash Burgess said no other city had such good tracks close to downtown.

“In 10 minutes you can be on beautiful trails, and we want to capitalise on that,” he said.

Businessmen Matt Farrar and Anthony Edmonds told the council economic growth and arts committee yesterday that the city had to take the chance to become a “jewel in the crown” of New Zealand mountainbiking.

They believed a 10-year investment could lead to the capital attracting more tourists, more business and more skilled migrants from overseas.

Tourists would stay longer in the city and it could attract more people looking for adventure tourism opportunities as well as potential new Wellingtonians.

“There are a lot of people like us out there who want to go biking without getting into a car,” Farrar said. “Here you have the opportunity to bike to work, to commute back [home] or go for a ride at lunchtime. [It is] unique by New Zealand and global standards.”

Wellington is great in having trails so close to the CBD. But I agree with Matt Farrar (no relation apart from the fact we have the same parents) that you want to be able to go biking without needing a car. As a new cyclist I’ve learnt that taking your bike into the city is semi-suicidal!

Rotorua’s mountainbike sector was worth an estimated $15 million a year, forecast to grow to $30m.

Mountainbike trails could be an alternative to cycle lanes through some parts of the city, Farrar suggested, and the group would look at funding from the New Zealand Transport Agency.

Edmonds said there was real money in biking and an investment would be good business.

Councillors made some positive comments about the idea, with Nicola Young saying it was “really exciting”.

There’s heaps of people crazy about mountain biking. They’ll travel and spend to be able to cycle. Some people will even decide which city to live in, on the basis of how good they are for cycling.

Wellington coffee

March 7th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Every Wellingtonian knows the capital has the best coffee in the world, but now the rest of the world know it too.

CNN has published a list of eight of the world’s great coffee cities, including the coolest little capital.

Naturally, Melbourne, Rome, Vienna, Singapore and Seattle were also mentioned.

Memphis Belle, Flight Coffee’s The Hanger, and Lamason Brew Bar were CNN’s top coffee spots in Wellington.

Us Wellingtonians do do very well on the coffee front. We have both quantity and quality when it comes to cafes.

It’s buses for Wellington

March 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports:

Faster, bigger buses have been officially chosen as the future of public transport in Wellington, snuffing out any chance of having light rail in the capital for the foreseeable future.

The Regional Transport Committee – a collective of Wellington’s mayors and the NZ Transport Agency – voted today to push ahead with plans to build a $268 million bus rapid transit network between the Wellington CBD and southern suburbs.

Detailed plans are yet to be drawn up, but it will involve hi-tech articulated or double-decker buses running along a dedicated busway between Wellington Railway Station and the suburbs of Newtown and Kilbirnie.

The route forms the southern part of Wellington’s public transport “spine”.

Today’s decision brings down the curtain on the Wellington Public Transport Spine Study, which began in 2011.

The Wellington city and regional councils jointly-commissioned the study along with the transport agency to find the best solution to Wellington’s public transport needs for the next 30 years.

It began by looking at 88 combinations of routes and types of public transport, which were effectively whittled down to light rail and a bus rapid transit network in June 2013.

At that point, the study revealed light rail could cost as much as $1.2 billion, largely because of the need to build a dedicated rail tunnel through Mt Victoria.

$268 million vs $1.2 billion makes it a very easy decision.

Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who was first elected in 2010 on the back of campaign promises to push for light rail, said today she had also been swayed by the ability of buses to go further than trams.

Good to see sense winning through.

Absolutely Positively Wellington

January 7th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

An interesting article in the Dom Post about the genesis of the Absolutely Positively slogan for Wellington.

It is the stand out success of city or town slogans. Almost everyone knows it, and it is not widely mocked like most slogans are.  God forbid if any future Council ever tries to change it,

Here’s a challenge for readers. What are the city slogans for the following cities:

  1. Auckland
  2. Christchurch
  3. Dunedin
  4. Hamilton
  5. New Plymouth
  6. Wanganui
  7. Invercargill
  8. Napier
  9. Palmerston North
  10. Nelson

 

Plunket on positive Wellington

December 22nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Sean Plunket writes:

Christmas came early for Wellington this past week with the announcement that the next three Avatar movies will be made here.

According to Treasury James Cameron’s apparent largesse might well come at a cost but I haven’t met a single Wellingtonian who doesn’t see it as a positive for this city.

It is a boost for Wellington.

So while this city prepares to turn blue and grow a tail Aucklanders are learning to live with their slick willy mayor and council that can do little to control him and Christchurch finds the kitty for its rebuild isn’t quite big enough to do everything it wants. Take note, John Key: in comparison to other large municipalities this capital city is hardly dying.

To be fair the PM was referring to corporate head offices leaving Wellington, and that is still happening.

We have a second-term mayor who seems to be using the word economy more often and a bunch of councillors who, if not unified, are at least pretty experienced and represent in a positive way our diverse population.

Celia’s performance, so far, has been better this term. Getting rid of some costly CCOs has been welcomed, and the Council seems more harmonious.

We’ve got parking wardens back under the control of our council which will hopefully curb some of the more market-driven excesses of those who patrol the pavements and the council’s living wage policy shows our elected city officials can get together and do the right thing.

On top of that we are building up to the International Festival of the Arts next year and the first sod has been turned on Transmission Gully.

Don’t agree on the living wage but do on the others.

In fact I’d argue there is actually more silver lining than cloud around the harbour capital right now and to repeat my exhortations from earlier in the year I just hope more of us realise that in 2014.

Yep, life in Wellington is pretty good.

Bus vs light rail for Wellington

September 30th, 2013 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Tony Randle writes in the Dom Post:

The recently released Wellington spine study recommendations on expanding public transport to and through the Wellington CBD found a dedicated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) option is the best long-term approach compared to bus priority or changing from buses to light rail.

Since then, we have heard mostly the anguished protests of light rail supporters who dispute this recommendation.

I presume these supporters do not plan to pay for the massive cost of light rail themselves!

The transport models for Wellington show the BRT option will increase public transport trips from south and east Wellington by 8.5 per cent while light rail will barely make a 1 per cent improvement.

It reminds me of the proposal to increase train capacity on one of the Wellington bus lines. It would have cost $100 million and only removed 80 cars a day at peak time. I joked it would be cheaper to buy 80 motorists a helicopter!

A key reason light rail fails is the need for thousands of CBD- bound commuters to transfer between buses and light rail at Kilbirnie or Newtown, compared with BRT where they will complete the journey with a single bus trip.

That is a strength of our bus system – not having to swap transport modes.

In economic terms, the BRT option has $90 million in public transport benefits against only $30m for the more expensive light rail option.

The Benefit Cost Ratio of BRT is 0.87 compared to just 0.05 for light rail (a benefit cost ratio of 0.05 is a total waste of money).

Julie-Anne Genter and the Greens correctly point out that some of the roads of national significance have a BCR of less than 1, which makes their economic value debatable. Surely Julie-Anne and the Greens would agree that a transport proposal with a BCR of 0.05 is barking mad!

Downstage closes

September 18th, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Downstage has announced:

The Board of Downstage Theatre today announced its decision to close the company.

The decision comes following the announcement by Creative New Zealand not to fund Downstage in 2014.

Downstage Theatre Trust chair, Allan Freeth, said today that the Board had not taken the decision lightly.

“Downstage has a fifty year history of bringing outstanding theatre experiences to Wellington audiences.”

“In recent years the theatre has pursued a new model – based on partnerships with artistic companies, taking risks on new works, and creating a supportive environment for artists.

“It is not possible to continue this work without adequate and stable funding.”

Mr Freeth said the Board acknowledged the many achievements of the individuals and artists who have worked with Downstage over the years, and the professionalism and hard work of the theatre’s staff.  In particular, the Board acknowledged the contribution of CEO and Director Hilary Beaton.

Downstage has been an institution in Wellington, and it is very sad to see it close. I’ve seen many great plays there, and so many people have contributed to it over the years.

The only consolation is that Wellington is at least well served by other theatres such as Circa, Bats, Gryphon etc. But it will be a shame to lose the custom made Downstage building from theatre – unless of course another theatre buys the building.

A LOTR museum for Wellington

August 31st, 2013 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The long quest to build a Lord of the Rings museum in Wellington appears close to an end, with city councillor John Morrison confirming plans for a site in the city centre.

Mr Morrison, a mayoral candidate and leader of the council’s events portfolio, said Sir Peter Jackson’s team was investigating two possible sites, which he understood to be Shed 1 on the waterfront and the old CitiOps building at the southern end of Tory St.

Planning was still in the early stages, but it was an exciting prospect, he said.

“From a Wellington point of view, we’re very thrilled about it being in Wellington. We’re not involved directly, but we’ve had a very interested eye on this process. …

A film museum would be a big draw for Wellington tourism. A Lord of the Rings exhibition at Te Papa in 2002, returning in 2006, drew 325,000 people and remains its most popular exhibit.

The Lord of the Rings film trilogy gave New Zealand visitor numbers a big boost, from 1.8 million in 2000 to 2.4 million in 2006.

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said it would present a great opportunity.

The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit had become a big part of the Wellington story.

“A permanent attraction around film would give us a way of telling those stories every day of the year.

An LOTR museum would be hugely popular. I recall the Te Papa exhibition, which was excellent.