“The eyes of the world will be on us” during the Rugby World Cup, claims Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. She’s exaggerating of course. She must secretly realise that there’ll be a huge part of the world whose eyes will not be looking at Wellington in September.
She also says that the “carnivale”  being organised by the city council will be “an inspiration to all of us.” The announcement seems to show that the city council has a lack of confidence in Wellington. Are we really a dreary city that needs extra activities to keep visitors happy between rugby matches? It’ll be mid-winter, yet we’re expecting our rugby tourists to stand in the southerlies and look at nighttime lightshows on buildings. We’re also expecting them to be impressed because we’ve rebuilt some public lavatories, and put up a rugby sculpture.
The council seems determined to move Courtenay Place crowds on to Taranaki Wharf, where they’re designing a Fanzone to be centred on the wharewaka, with or without its waka. The official website shows outdoor screens on the wharf, but there’s talk of moving them indoors. Belated recognition of winter temperatures, perhaps. And suddenly there’s potential competition not only from cinemas which will show the games live in 3D but also from entrepreneurs who are eyeing the Kilbirnie indoor sports centre as an extra big-screen venue, at a ticket price starting at $90. With the games also live on Sky and (according to their advertising) on Maori TV, rugby fans are likely to be over-supplied with a choice of where and how to watch the games.
The people who create Wellington’s annual cultural events may well be envious of the large amounts of money being paid out for one-off activities during the rugby. It’s true that the government has taken the lead in this, by providing $9.48million in lottery grants. But it’s difficult to reconcile the council’s repeated statements about “tough times” with the news that its staff have enough spare time to organise a carnival.
Which brings us back to “the eyes of the world,” a phrase which shows the mayor has been ill-served by her communications people. They’ve got her to use the same vocabulary which led Kerry Prendergast to say that reopening Manners Street to buses was necessary “if we want an internationally competitive city.”  Does anyone think we’re more internationally competitive since the Manners Mall was dug up?
Celia Wade-Brown has made some important speeches in recent weeks. When she spoke to the Transport Infrastructure Summit, her enthusiasm for Wellington didn’t make us sound like a place that needed extra attractions before tourists would be satisfied. She also spoke in detail about the city’s need to develop the best public transport system . And when she was opening a climate change forum  she said pointedly: “Traffic growth has stabilised but that area seems one where climate change action and investment are not, what shall I say, perfectly aligned.” But the council didn’t issue press releases on these topics.
Which makes it embarrassing that someone decided we should be told about the eyes of the world. The council has far more relevant messages to deliver.
And in Auckland:
Their party central is bigger than our party central