Wellington Scoop

Booking the invisible building


WREDA’s enthusiasm for Wellington knows no bounds. It’s taking bookings for the city council’s new convention centre, in spite of the fact that construction hasn’t started.

In a news release last week, WREDA reported:

The proposed Convention Centre, with seating for around 2,000, is on the horizon and promises a bright new era in business event hosting in Wellington. It will provide a significant economic boost to the regional economy, and there is strong international interest with WREDA already taking shadow bookings for 2021 and beyond.

The absence of the convention centre does not, however, seem to be causing any problems in attracting big events to the city. WREDA tells us that it has been attracting record numbers of conferences:

WREDA’s Business Events Wellington team has secured new conferences worth more than $10million in the three months ending March 2018, setting a new quarterly record. The year total sits at $23 million of new conferences for Wellington, with one quarter of the 2017/18 financial year to go.

Here’s how WREDA (choosing its words carefully) describes two of the events which it says it has attracted to Wellington:

. the conference of a high-profile Australasian Association with more than 650 delegates, which will be held across multiple venues in the region in 2019 and will be worth an estimated $1.3 million to Wellington.

. the opportunity to host the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment … which will attract more than 400 delegates to Wellington in 2019, bringing in an estimated $804,000 to the region.

Neither of which seems to have been disadvantaged by the absence of the convention centre.

And as for the continuing delays to construction, the latest news is that the cost of the building – which the city council has agreed to pay for – has gone up from $134m to $165m, with the council asking for financial help from the government, and no sign of an end to the prolonged negotiations with Peter Jackson about the many unresolved issues affecting his movie museum (which is intended to occupy the two floors below the convention centre.)


  1. Build it now!, 23. April 2018, 12:23

    – These large events are in planning years before they happen. Would you rather WREDA took no bookings at all and had no business when the convention centre opens? They are “shadow” bookings which will obviously be reviewed against progress closer to the time

    – The events they have attracted are nowhere near the 2000 capacity. What events has Wellington missed out on of a size near that level?

    – One of the events they have attracted needs to be held across multiple venues presumably because there isn’t one venue big enough. Is that the sort of compromise we should be asking of our visitors?

    I know the author is passionate about the Town Hall strengthening and is not a supporter of the convention centre. I would welcome an article which shows the business case/benefits to Wellington of the town hall strengthening.

  2. Traveller, 23. April 2018, 14:00

    WREDA would have been wiser to hold back from taking bookings, even “shadows,” till the building was fully financed. There’s now a $15m shortfall, with the likelihood of more cost escalations. And also there’s no date to start construction – another reason for WREDA to curb its excitement.

  3. greenwelly, 23. April 2018, 14:04

    I’m guessing that WREDA’s “shadow bookings” will be able to be accommodated in the refurbished Town hall or the Michael Fowler Centre if 2021 is not a goal that can be met. Especially given that 2021 is the date the council have given for the Town Hall to be open again.

  4. Lindsay, 23. April 2018, 14:14

    It’s worth asking why Wellington needs to build a convention centre with a capacity of 2000 when the city already has the TSB Arena with a capacity (according to the council website) of up to 3900. If the convention centre is built, it’ll be competing with the TSB Arena for business – yet both are council-owned venues.

  5. Build it now!, 23. April 2018, 15:46

    What happens when TBS Arena is out for months every year due to the World of Wearable arts? Maybe Wellington needs an indoor arena. [A second one?]

  6. Geoffrey Horne, 25. April 2018, 20:18

    Good to know the Convention Center is being proactive. This may provide some leverage to help Sir Peter to sign off his part of the building, and result in Wellington getting an iconic structure that will add value to the city and be a major tourist attraction. We desperately need another venue for the tourists from 110 cruise boats, and a space suitable for conferences – which the Events Centre certainly is not.

  7. Ghost Chups, 27. April 2018, 10:10

    WREDA, you know we can’t use your ghost convention centre.