Wellington Scoop

Hope and competition, online

by Lindsay Shelton
It’s amazing what you learn online. Last week’s Wellington City Council Forum on Facebook provided new information about the continuing delays to building the Movie Museum and Convention Centre. It also revealed there may be competition for the Airport Flyer.

The Forum was supposed to be about the Ten Year Plan, but questioners mainly focused on more basic topics.

A council person named only as Heather provided the update (which wasn’t very encouraging) about the Movie Museum delays. She responded to a questioner with only “hope” that work might start, sometime:

We’re working constructively with the movie museum parties and we hope that work on the site will commence late in the year or early next year.

Till now, the mayor has been the only council person who has talked about delays to the building, which councillors agreed to pay for back in 2016, when it was described as a “key economic development project.”

The mayor did, however, respond to a question on a less complex topic – traffic congestion between the city and the airport. A ratepayer asked:

While the longer term traffic management plans evolve, are there any shorter term initiatives for additional multi-user airport shuttles/buses primarily targeting the city-airport route, reducing the need for 100s of taxis?

To which Justin Lester responded by revealing that there may be competition on the route:

We have another provider looking at establishing a high-frequency ‘Wellington airport to CBD to Hutt Valley’ service. I’m wholly supportive and think this would help improve the current costs and service. The new operator is very keen to become established in Wellington. Watch this space.

Another council response seemed to reveal WCC support for light rail:

Regarding the noise of the diesel buses, the buses are funded by the Regional Council and we support their moves to upgrade to bigger buses and new routes to reduce the overall number of buses on the roads – especially in the CBD. We’re also looking forward to the prospect of a light-rail (tram) system that would certainly get more diesels off the roads.

Then there was a questioner concerned that his bike had been stolen, with CCTV camera providing no security:

The city needs appropriate safety measures, to ensure it can become a cycle-friendly city. I had my expensive mountain bike stolen last Thursday eve on Lambton Quay in full public display and it was apparently not detected by any of the CCTV footage. A witness recalled a group of 5-6 16-year-old boys were bolt-cuttong several bikes. How can a gang of thieves get away with this criminal behaviour in a super-busy & frequented public space like that??

To which Sarah Free replied:

We agree that that isn’t good and will look to see if there is more that can be done in co-operation with the police. We are installing better bike storage all the time, including covered storage in high profile areas with more foot traffic so hopefully better security.

The unhappy cyclist said police should pay attention and respond to crimes immediately as they happen. What, he asked, is otherwise the point of having the CCTV cameras?

The online Forum touched on the enthusiasm by all regional mayors that Wellington should spend $200million building an indoor arena for visiting big-ticket entertainment groups. As someone who has often queried the value of such expenditure, I asked:

Will there be a business case to show (1) whether there are sufficient big-ticket shows to warrant building a new venue and (2) whether the Wellington population has enough people who can afford the high ticket prices to many big shows every year? For reference: how many times per year is the Stadium filled to capacity?

My question brought a rapid response from the mayor:

Hi Lindsay, yes and yes. Thousands of Wellingtonians are not only keen to attend such events, they’re flying to Auckland fairly regularly to do so. Not only are we losing all of that local spend, it’s costing people a fortune to do it.

I then asked if a new indoor arena would be competing with the Stadium for business. I repeated my question about how many times per year are all the Stadium’s 35,000 seats sold out? And I raised the issue of how many big-ticket groups per year Wellingtonians could afford to pay for, and how many NZ centres the “big acts” want to spend time visiting.

Greetings Lindsay – no we don’t believe an indoor arena would be competing directly with the Westpac Stadium – they serve different purposes. You will be aware that the Stadium can be sold out several times a year – ie for All Whites matches, All Blacks tests and when the Hurricanes are in the playoffs… the angry feedback we’ve received recently over the non-appearance in Wellington of the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar [shows] the fact we’re missing out badly. We know that the big acts are more than happy to play three New Zealand cities if the demand is there – and we know that Wellingtonians would far rather watch their favourite acts in Wellington than spend $1000-plus on a big trip to Auckland or Christchurch.

So if Ed Sheeran and Kendrick Lamar hadn’t come here because there was no covered arena with enough seats, I then asked about another top popular performer who did not require a roof for her shows:

Adele didnt require an indoor arena when she came to Auckland – all her shows were outdoors. (Including at least one night of rain.) Why wasn’t she persuaded to bring her show to one of Wellington’s outdoor arenas? (The Stadium or the Basin?)

But there was no reply.


  1. greenwelly, 7. May 2018, 9:32

    >We have another provider looking at establishing a high-frequency ‘Wellington airport to CBD to Hutt Valley’ service , I’m wholly supportive and think this would help improve the current costs and service.
    >we support their moves to ……. reduce the overall number of buses on the roads – especially in the CBD.

    These two statements are in direct conflict. They support additional bus services, but want to reduce the number of buses on the roads.

  2. Andy Foster, 7. May 2018, 10:17

    Lindsay – Ed Sheeran also played outside in Auckland and Forsyth Barr Stadium took 30,000 each time too. If he played in Wellington it would undoubtedly have been at Westpac, not in a 12,000 seat indoor arena. Indoor arena can really only cover the gap between TSB capacity and whatever size it is built to (say 12,000).

    So if we are going to proceed is a business case necessary? Absolutely.
    Will it show the arena as a good investment? Let’s see.

    Yes there are many Wellingtonians who travel to (Auckland usually) for occasional concerts. Of course there are many many times that number who do not travel – but would be paying for an arena whether they used it frequently or not or not at all.

    If an artist is coming to NZ, how many venues would they play at if say Wellington and Christchurch both had larger venues? That will vary and is a risk factor. I’ve just read an article about Christchurch’s aspiration to upgrade/replace/expand their indoor arena. It noted that they would be likely to compete with Dunedin rather than co-operate. Big question is how smart we are being to all fight over the same cake in a country with our sized population? NZ Inc approach or localised approach?

    Whatever the ultimate decision on an arena, the decision should be hard headed and evidence driven. What we are seeing so far is pretty much advocacy. It’s quite staggering too that some people are saying (about what appears to be in nominal dollars the single most expensive investment Council(s) have ever made in Wellington) stop mucking around and just build it – before we’ve even got any real quality information to support it or not.

    Finally the biggest question in the current proposed LTP is really how much should Council plan on investing and which are the most important and best value for money investments. The debt projection is to rise from $500+ million to $1.1 billion over just 10 years.

    Andy Foster
    Chair Finance, Wellington City Council

  3. Jonny Utzone, 7. May 2018, 10:23

    I wonder how much Infratil will charge any new bus operator seeking to operate to/from the Airport? NZ Bus, which runs the Airport Flyer without GWRC subsidy, must have a major competitive advantage because it is owned by Infratil. Any new bus operator wouldn’t have this advantage. I wonder how WCC, the other airport share-holder, will handle negotiations regarding airport bus access charges.

  4. Katy Mansfield., 7. May 2018, 10:37

    Andy – NZ Inc is ‘competing’ with Australia particularly East Coast Australia. Ed Sheeran and other big names fit NZ into an Australasian tour. NZ is on a par with SE QLD and is smaller than Sydney or Melbourne in population. So tour managers treat NZ as an east coast Aussie state or two states (North and South Island). Adding in WA and SA, we get the following tour: Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland and Christchurch when they get a venue built (or Dunedin until then). Wellington doesn’t and won’t figure in big name tours.

  5. Lindsay, 7. May 2018, 10:38

    Andy. Thanks for all the useful information. As there are so many people at WREDA who are employed to attract big events to Wellington, I wonder why they failed to persuade Ed Sheeran or Adele to book shows at the Stadium?

  6. Michael Gibson, 7. May 2018, 12:28

    I had a letter published a year ago about last year’s WCC Plan and pointed out that WCC was planning to raise debt from $400,000,000 to $800,000,000.
    Now that the figures are $500,000,000 rising to $1.1 billion I hope that other Councillors join the excellent Andy Foster in providing serious opposition to such a blow being aimed at ratepayers.

  7. Andy Foster, 7. May 2018, 13:17

    Katy – quite correct.
    Look forward to your submission on the LTP !

  8. TrevorH, 7. May 2018, 13:18

    Please let Wellington keep its status as an Ed Sheeran-free zone.

  9. David Mackenzie, 7. May 2018, 13:34

    Lindsay seems to have missed the fact that there is unlikely to be an airport flyer from July, with the new bus routes being introduced. Therefore, any new service would not be in competition with it.

  10. Cr Daran Ponter, 7. May 2018, 15:45

    A number of bus operators have expressed interest in running an Airport service. It is highly unlikely that Wellington can support more than one service from the Hutt Valley, so purchase of the Airport Flyer route might be the most feasible option.

    Johny Utzone is quite correct. The major stumbling block for any operator will be getting Infratil’s agreement to access the Airport. This is a ridiculous situation that needs to be addressed through legislation. The Airport should not be able to hold our transport system to ransom.

  11. Roy Kutel, 7. May 2018, 16:14

    David – you are probably wrong. The Airport Flyer will continue to run but only from the Wellington Railway Station. It will no longer go to/from Lower Hutt which is another ‘unforeseen’ result of calamity-prone GWRC bus tendering.

  12. Cr Daran Ponter, 7. May 2018, 17:30

    Update: Nz Bus advised GWRC in April that they are retaining the Airport Flyer Service from Queensgate. Note that this is a commercial service (it is not subsidised). This means that NZ Bus can terminate the service with only 15 days notice.

  13. Roy Kutel, 7. May 2018, 20:03

    Thanks Daran for the update. But surely the answer long term is rail to the Wellington Railway Station then a ‘flyer’ (light rail) to the airport (but with a $1 billion price tag).

  14. luke, 8. May 2018, 11:39

    The Airport Flyer needs a quicker trip from the Station to the Airport; some of that onstreet parking approaching the bus tunnel needs to be a peak time buslane so it can bypass the inevitable congestion.

  15. Tony Jansen, 11. May 2018, 13:04

    My concern is with all these “big ticket” items in the LTP – eg Movie museum, Indoor Arena, Runway Extension etc. The “economic business cases” presented to justify them seem purely fictional.
    I just cannot see how we can afford to build stand alone items such as these in a city as small and refreshingly boutique as ours. No one has suggested combining some of them into a multi purpose facility. Perhaps that might be possible and make more sense?
    However as someone has pointed out re scheduling of Australasian gigs, we are also in the same scenario with how airlines schedule their planes. In other words, there is even less of a credible need and business case for the runway extension. Airlines will not change their international routing.
    Finally, how disappointing the options in the LTP are either “A” everything or “B” nothing….especially for those of us who do not agree with the justifications, business cases and the alleged need for a movie museum or runway extension to highlight just two of the more obvious examples. I am very concerned about the reasoning provided by the WCC for embracing so much debt for such pointless and frivolous items.