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Wellington councillors vote to pay $154m for convention centre

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Wellington City Councillors have voted to proceed with a Five Greenstar Convention and Exhibition Centre (CEC) which will give a major boost to the local economy, create hundreds of jobs and provide stimulus for further regeneration in that part of the city.

The Council’s City Strategy Committee passed the recommendation unanimously today.

The three-storey Cable Street building, with around 18,000-square metres of floor space, will comfortably be able to host 1500 people for conventions. It includes a 1651sq m exhibition area that will attract international exhibitions too big for nearby Te Papa and provide an always-changing visitor attraction.

It has a net cost of $154.3 million.

It is estimated the CEC will boost Wellington’s GDP by $44.8 million a year and employ people in 550 jobs once it is operating. Construction, which will employ 864, can start in August 2019 and should take three years.

“I am delighted we are able to start on this project,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester. “This has been more than five years in the making. We have an ambitious social programme to improve things for all Wellingtonians, and we need to ensure the Wellington economy is growing so we can help fund it.

“The CEC will be designed, engineered and built using local talent and to high sustainability standards.

“We are ready to go and the boost it will give to the city will be tremendous. It will spark a raft of much-needed development in the area.

“There are a number of private developments ready to go and we hope the CEC green light will provide confidence for them to proceed quickly and help rejuvenate that part of town.

“The area is now largely carparks and major roads, but soon there will be far better links between Courtenay Place and the waterfront – laneways will spring up and there will be another vibrant quarter for downtown.

“We’ve budgeted for the CEC in the Long-Term Plan and local businesses are eager to see it happen.”

An amendment by committee chair Councillor Iona Pannett means the Council will aim in principle to make the Centre a Five Greenstar building.

Councillor Simon Marsh, who holds the Economic Development Portfolio, says the Council has made a strategic decision to approve the Centre as it will ensure the city can remain competitive when Auckland and Christchurch are also building convention centres.

“As well as creating economic benefit and jobs, we are not only protecting but also enhancing the existing convention industry in Wellington and the jobs it creates,” he says.

“It is anticipated that more than 100 new events will be attracted to the Wellington market each year, bringing almost 150,000 additional delegate days and the related economic benefits.

“Generally conventions are held during the week, so out-of-town attendees will be boosting spending in cafes, bars and restaurants during the quieter periods.

“The exhibition centre will provide lots of activity at weekends and through the summer periods to ensure there is year-round activity in the building. This is a great step for Wellington and I look forward to the benefits it will bring.”

Read also:
How much will the losses be?

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31 comments:

  1. Diane Calvert, 13. December 2018, 14:41

    WgtnCC decision today to proceed with convention centre is definitely the right way to go. This will boost our economy and the vibrancy of the area. Roll on the build in 2019. [via twitter]

     
  2. Wellington Commuter, 13. December 2018, 14:43

    So WgtnCC will spend $179m on an iconic central city building that will support multi-day conventions for up to 1500 people … except it won’t have any car parks. People from outside the region will taxi or hotel and Wellingtonians can train then bus then walk! Design4success. [via twitter]

     
  3. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 13. December 2018, 14:45

    No basement car park. A walkway through the ground floor of the building, linking Courtenay Place (via Reading Cinemas building) through to Te Papa. New pedestrian crossings across Wakefield and Cable Streets. And plenty of cycle parking. How’s that for a start? [via twitter]

     
  4. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 13. December 2018, 14:50

    Cue the sound of a monstrous cash register folks, because if you are a ratepayer it will be you who is paying for it.

     
  5. Traveller, 13. December 2018, 14:55

    550 new jobs? What will they all be doing during the many weeks when the convention centre is empty?

     
  6. Lavender, 13. December 2018, 14:59

    I could say a lot about this decision but I think I’ll go with – whatever Justin’s smoking, I want some.

     
  7. Bernard C, 13. December 2018, 16:02

    If we had access to justice in this matter of being misrepresented, we would be able to vote to recall all these treacherous Councillors. People who have voted against our interests to get us into debt for an expensive building that we do not need.

    The WCC talks of “regeneration” for an already busy regenerating part of the city. It will not be a boost to the economy, it looks likely to be a big economic loss, a ghost convention center.

     
  8. Disgusted of Thorndon, 13. December 2018, 16:05

    Even Gordon Bennett would have been incredulous at this monumentally stupid decision at ratepayers’ expense. Where are the Councillors who want to stick to core business?

     
  9. Anabel, 13. December 2018, 18:15

    Yeah Bernard I agree. The Councillors who voted for this should be tossed. They work for business not for us.

     
  10. Wow., 13. December 2018, 21:49

    Another champagne day in Willis Bond HQ as they suck more tens of millions of dollars out of Wellington ratepayers with a non-contested council project.

     
  11. aom, 13. December 2018, 23:00

    It is mind-boggling that not one Councillor voted against the Willis Bond/LT McGuinness conference centre. It should be recalled that another less favoured Wellington developer, who is now working on a Children’s Hospital with a personal $50m+ donation, couldn’t acquire the site for his Hilton Hotel/Conference Centre proposal. Soon after, Willis Bond secured an option on the site. The upshot is that the ratepayers stumped up $21m that had project management/building contractor strings attached. Not one Councillor seems to have questioned this, despite having been provided with the relevant information in their briefing papers. This is another ‘behind closed door’ deal negotiated between Build Wellington and Willis Bond. Peter Jackson pulled out of the movie museum project, but not one Councillor seems to have wondered about the reasons for his misgivings which were spelled out for them in his bullet-pointed statement of discontent. Does the Council really expect to get a healthy subsidy from the Government? Perhaps none of those sitting around the big oval table realised that their former colleague and the ex-Minister of Finance both departed from the positions they held when the deal was discussed. Will the new hair-brained dependence on exhibition income work? Not any Councillor seems to have, for example, questioned how much the terracotta warrior exhibition is costing Te Papa and related this to the expenses that attracting exhibitions for the convention centre scheme will incur. As for the financial projections that provided comfort for some Councillors – based on fictitious figures that were put up for earlier, and different schemes. Once again, no questioning. In reality, the proposed deal is another example of lobby groups of the vested interests and the parasitic sectors of the business community finagling a subsidised Council vanity project. Not one Councillor questioned this. It is past the time for Councillors, who are dabbling in commercial deals, to be financially liable for bad decisions as they would be in the private sector. Currently, they only face the risk of losing what has evolved to being sinecures for rubber-stamping projects that they fail to question as a requirement of the governance role they were elected for.

     
  12. TrevorH, 14. December 2018, 6:48

    Roll on 2019 and a complete cleanout of this Council.

     
  13. Fleur Fitzsimons, 14. December 2018, 9:22

    I want to see social procurement models used by Council in building and operating this, including decent jobs. [via twitter]

     
  14. Peter, 14. December 2018, 10:01

    Cr Fitzsimons – the building deals have already been done by Build Wellington to secure the whole shebang in the hands of the McGuinness family. That is what you voted for yesterday.

     
  15. Traveller, 14. December 2018, 11:21

    $4.5m operating cost and $3.8m revenue…That’s a substantial annual subsidy that ratepayers will be paying, on top of the construction cost.

     
  16. Roy Kutel, 14. December 2018, 11:55

    Fleur – Probably an even bigger loss then for long suffering ratepayers to finance. So it’s not even going to be run commercially (welcome to Chavista Wellington)! Have any of these Councillors had a proper job?

     
  17. Regena, 14. December 2018, 15:46

    Fleur what are you talking about? Social procurement? What do you mean? Decent jobs? They will be casual, low wage for four hours every now and again – this is not decent…Surely this was not the basis for your vote??

    Regenerate the area…meaning what? Demolish Te Papa? Stop selling alcohol in Courtenay Place? How is my rates contribution to this loss making vanity building facing lanes of one way traffic going to regenerate anything or anyone?

     
  18. Alana, 14. December 2018, 16:28

    Is there any opportunity for public comment? A resource consent process?
    No other bidder than Willis Bond?
    Will this project push back the much needed Town Hall and St James projects?

     
  19. Andrew, 14. December 2018, 16:42

    A quick search returned this link.
    http://socialprocurementaustralasia.com/
    They mention tenderer a few times, so presumably that ship has sailed.

    It appears the WCC has come across one of the Steve Jobs Reality Distortion Field devices. Now in the hands of Wellington Councillors and Mr DT.

     
  20. Alana, 14. December 2018, 17:43

    I’ve had just a bit of time to look into the opportunities for public comment and I think the last time the consultation involved the Hilton hotel and then the Peter Jackson movie museum. But not this stand alone project. And I should note that Lindsay’s previous article linked in this one describes the history in excellent detail.

     
  21. greywarbler, 14. December 2018, 19:16

    Here is a lovely photo from the sea looking at Te Papa on Cable Street. The Convention Centre will presumably be at the same level. Is it wise, when we know there is sea level rise bound to occur plus weather bombs and storms big enough to blow the Wahine over, to build expensively on the sea shore? Having all your capital expenditure in one basket is investing in rotten eggs isn’t it?
    So Wellington City Councillors, say you were paid by each decision you make – what would be your rate for deciding this one? And have the ratepayers got any ability to call for recompense for your slack thinking if it all turns to custard?
    Will you be able to obtain insurance on the building? And if you do, will it carry a heavy penalty for building in a risky position? What life term do you consider the building has? Is it 10-20 years at most, with today’s shonky approach, and will it recover its costs in that time?

     
  22. Reg Varney, 14. December 2018, 19:22

    Alana – It’s a Council project and the Councillors represent us – so your chance at public ‘consultation’ is at the next election.

     
  23. Peter Kerr, 14. December 2018, 20:58

    The remarks of the three councilors above confirms the sense of helplessness and anger that many of us feel towards them.
    Calvi-Freeman’s exhortation that we might all brim with optimism because pedestrian access may be better, is an indicator of the sickness crippling any chance of coherent critical thinking about these projects.
    It’s difficult to know what Fitzsimons means with “social procurement”. The public is inured to this sort of bumf. It’s code for dead-end jobs, smiling at the guests, and pandering to the well-off. Still, she’s got the word ‘social’ in the twitter, and it must have been her justification for committing to such a back room deal.
    And finally, Calvert – no need to discuss it. “It is definitely the right way to go”. How do you argue with that?
    At the last election and by-election, these candidates would all have us believe they had something to offer, but by their decisions we can see that they are self-deluded and end up deceiving us. The more I vote, the worse it gets.

     
  24. Katy Mansfield, 15. December 2018, 7:42

    Chris Freeman – and all the delegates will be flying in from somewhere via AKL and CCH from where WTN has grabbed the conferences . How much GHG does that produce?

     
  25. Tony Jansen, 15. December 2018, 13:12

    Superb comments by all above and AOM says exactly what I wanted to say. The unanimous vote for this spectacular white elephant is astounding. Not one Councillor had the moral back bone or ethical awareness to object to this deal. I would have thought the green councillors and Andy Foster, who has been a vocal proponent of more transparency, would have voted against this sham. But no.
    None of these so called elected officials deserve to retain their seats at the next election. This was already shaping up to be the worst administration in recent times. Now this decision has confirmed this.
    On a lighter side….perhaps we should start referring to this project from now on as “Lester’s Folly”?

     
  26. Harry M, 15. December 2018, 18:28

    And it gets worse this proposed financial misconduct is up to $179 million (including purchase of the land).
    Yeah I agree Tony it’s an all time record low for Councillors, mayor and CEO.

     
  27. Brian Bennett, 16. December 2018, 15:54

    Why couldn’t the WCC do a deal with Peter Jackson and Weta workshop etc to provide an international attraction for Wellington? This would bring in outside and international money to the city. This would be a win win project.
    I can recall that in the earlier stages of the project there was an international hotel planned for the site that did not proceed as the developer could not buy the land. Why risk ratepayer funds on this project?

     
  28. Chris Horne, 17. December 2018, 19:31

    Our city councillors, without exception, have excelled themselves with their decision to lumber we rate-payers, and future generations of rate-payers, with paying for the proposed convention centre.

    They have ignored two important facts:
    1. Wellington was supposedly aiming to become the carbon-neutral capital. Construction of the project would require the burning of vast volumes of diesel fuel and petrol for machinery and vehicles.

    2. Parliament ratified the 2015 COP21 Paris Accord, committing NZ to slashing its greenhouse-gas emissions. Our Government confirmed NZ’s support for the Paris Accord at the recent meeting of over 200 nations in Poland. Use of the proposed convention centre would generate many aircraft flights to and from Wellington, requiring the burning of vast volumes of jet fuel.

    Finally, all our councillors failed to realise that the site of the proposed convention centre is on reclaimed land about one metre above high tide during king tides. Given the rate of sea-level rise, the centre’s ground floor could in a decade or two become useful as an aquarium, or indoor swimming pool, both potential added attractions for convention delegates.

     
  29. Sir, 18. December 2018, 9:08

    I recall another mayor who rushed in when just elected with his “negotiating” business skills with designs on this site in the late 80s…He knew “best” and more dollars were wasted on plans for a pretentious vanity building there. The stock market and the developer crashed and money was lost, it was a flop.

     
  30. Andrew, 18. December 2018, 11:33

    Chris, don’t forget the C02 released while cement is made.
    Up to 8% according to recent figures.

     
  31. michael, 4. January 2019, 10:58

    How much more can Wellington rate-payers be expected to put up with?
    Another two “white elephants” in the pipeline. This one and a new arena, while Wellington’s old infrastructure cannot be sustained, our transport system is in disarray, spending on defending the council against court cases escalating, and the city is desperately in need of more parks and green spaces as more apartment buildings are going up in what is increasingly becoming a concrete jungle.

    The council elections cannot come fast enough as I am disillusioned with the current bunch, and I cannot afford any more rate increases. Mind you by the time they have finished with Wellington City it won’t be the desirable place to live it has been.