Huffington Post on Wellington

Nicolette Logue writes at the Huffington Post:

If you didn’t know anything about NZ, you might think it was a little like Canberra — national capital, public service town, small in size and a reputation for being a bit dull. But this city has undergone a remarkable transformation, emerging as a creative, cultural and economic success story.

New Zealand’s capital was once a town which relied heavily on government employment, and suffered greatly when there were widespread redundancies in the early 1980s. Reduced tariffs meant nearby car factories, who were major employers, shut down. Swathes of the city was being bulldozed to rebuild in an earthquake-compliant manner. The nightclub scene on Courtenay Place was fledgling, and even these entertainments were wedged amid greasy takeaway joints and people sleeping in alcoves. …

In the years since, it has undergone an economic, and cultural, miracle. This year, it beat the largest city, Auckland, and the nation as a whole, in terms of economic growth. And this year, New Zealand has beaten Australia in the Global Innovation Index, coming in at 17th in the world.

It has more bars, restaurants and cafes per capita than New York City. In 2011, it was named by Lonely Planet as the coolest little capital in the world.

And with a population of 204,000 — about the size of Hobart — it has around 800 start-up businesses.

So what turned a struggling city into one of the most innovative and creative in the world?

Wellington is a rocking little place.

If you were to pinpoint a person and a moment in time for Wellington’s transformation, it would probably be Peter Jackson and the late 1990s.

Everyone says so. And while this isn’t quantifiable or measurable or attributed to three, rock-solid sources, it seems to make sense.

Jackson, a proud Wellington native, had just bought an old film studio in the suburb of Miramar, about 20 minutes’ drive from Wellington proper.

After years making ‘splatstick’ horror films, his career took off. Around the same time, other prominent NZ directors Jane Campion and Lee Tamahori also achieved renown, but departed for Hollywood. Jackson stayed at home and with his success improved the fortunes of those on the peninsula. …

This reminds me of the CTU tried to stop The Hobbit and supported an Australian union’s attempt to get a global blacklisting of it. They portrayed Jackson and Taylor as bad employers.

The second is Wellington’s geographic layout. The city is compact, marked on three sides by water and the fourth by the Hutt valley.

This does make a huge difference. The entire city centre is walkable.

Barista John Cole manages The Beanery, one of Mojo Coffee’s outlets in Wellington CBD. The density of this chain is astonishing — in a CBD measuring two square kilometres, there are 20 outlets.

Heh, coffee fuels Wellington.

He estimates there are 7-800 start-ups currently operating in Wellington, and he says networking is the key to success.

“Networking is about bringing people together — it’s how connections are made.

Very proud of the number of start ups we have. Great to see so many people wanting to set up their own business rather than be an employee for someone else. It is the opposite of Canberra.

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