A cruise ship carrying 2600 passengers arrives in Wellington on Sunday, and the tourists will be offered the choice of walking from the Aotea Quay wharf to the central business district. Positively Wellington Tourism says the walk will “further enhance” the experience of the 100,000 cruise ship visitors who are expected during the summer. But the walkway is awful. No visitor could be impressed by the experience.
The tourist walk starts alongside piles of logs, with a small map indicating the layout of the invisible city.
First impressions are important. These two messages offer a memorable first impression for tourists from visiting cruise ships.
The logs at least have a fresh smell, in contrast to the traffic fumes from five lanes of traffic alongside the walkway. But as for Wellington’s famous views – this miniscule glimpse between the logs is all the walkers will see.
The path to the central business district is marked by a dim blue line. If you followed the dim blue line on Friday, you would have had to splash through a very large puddle. And what would visitors make of the crisscrossed yellow lines, and the railway track?
Just like the bad old days of the Wellington Harbour Board, the port is fenced off from pedestrians. Not that there’s anything to see, except industrial buildings.
The blue line lets tourists sample some of Wellington’s thoughtless parking habits. The cars are on a yellow line as well as on the footpath. Little space for even the slimmest of visitors.
Apparently the tourist walkway has been upgraded this year. Perhaps this is part of the upgrading. Take a seat, with your back to the harbour, and admire the passing traffic.
Signage in the draughty shelter describes Wellington’s “steep green hills and stunning harbour.” But on this walk you don’t experience either of them.
Across a sealed carpark (the first of many) there’s a distant glimpse of the headquarters where New Zealand’s world cup strategies are being planned.
And as the walk goes on, something to write home about – a railway crossing on a main road. What kind of city is this?
This billboard could be connected with the sign about drinking problems, which began the walk. But you can’t get too close – there’s another security fence, and a warning that it’s on private property.
Here’s a second shelter, offering two choices: you can sit and look at five lanes of traffic, or you can turn and look at a blank wall. As for harbour views, forget them. They’re no part of this tourist walk.
And here’s a warning for visitors to Wellington: someone’s campervan, behind a locked gate.
The walk goes on and on and the blue line is joined by two yellow lines, to warn that you’re now walking on a road. Though it’s only 15 or 20 minutes from the ship to the railway station, the industrial drabness and the traffic fumes make the walk seem longer.
By now, our pedestrian visitors will be thinking: the distant harbour may well be beautiful, but why are there so many carparks? And why aren’t we walking on the edge of the harbour?
At last, signs of architecture and urban design. What is this harbourside building? It’s a bank. A chance to get some cash …
…Well, not actually. On Friday the bank’s new cash machine was out of order.
By now, the blue line has vanished. The message on the only sign says exit. Nothing tells visitors that if they walk around the building they will see the harbour.
So keep following the walkway. You’ll soon arrive at another harbour’s edge carpark. How peculiar to offer this experience to tourists – such a beautiful harbour which is lined with cars.
Finally a welcome sign. Yeah right. Welcome to another carpark.
The walkway to the city is a shameful and dismal route for visitors. Positively Wellington Tourism (which wants tourists “to have the best experience”) should remove it from the list of things to do.
Of course, all problems could be solved if cruise ships berthed at Queens Wharf, where the city’s beauty can be readily seen and reached. But of 47 cruise ships expected this season, only two of them – small ones – will be berthing at Queens Wharf. All the others will be down in the industrial ghetto, with the industrial slum experience available to every visitor who wants to go walking.