Wellington Scoop

Spending the rates: $14,000 for midnight tickets to The Hobbit

Ratepayers will have been surprised to learn that a council organisation spent $14,000 buying 750 tickets to a screening of The Hobbit at the Embassy. The expenditure was revealed on the same day that councillors debated whether or not such organisations, each with its own board and staff, should be allowed to continue.

The $14,000 was spent eight weeks ago by Positively Wellington Tourism. It might never have been discovered except for the fact that it was for the first Embassy screening at midnight on December 12 – and fans queueing on Wednesday night to buy tickets to the same screening weren’t told that the show had been sold out.

Positively Wellington Tourism hasn’t explained how buying 750 tickets would support its brief of promoting tourism in the capital city. Once it was found out, it decided to give them all away – some to the unhappy queuers, and the rest in a “luck of the draw lottery.” Which isn’t likely to do anything to bring more visitors to Wellington.

Nevertheless, councillors yesterday decided that all their council controlled organisations should be allowed to continue. Even Wellington Waterfront Ltd. For a third time, they received a report recommending that the company’s activities be brought in house. For a third time, the company lobbied for its own survival. Its chief executive told the DomPost that its work needed continuity. Its chair defended the company at yesterday’s meeting of the council’s strategy and policy committee. The vote was tied. The company survived thanks to a casting vote in its favour by committee chair Andy Foster.

The decision means the company continues till 2015. In that year its work is supposed to be completed and the company is supposed to be closed down. But no doubt, there’ll be a fourth round of lobbying for its life to continue.

As for Positively Wellington Tourism, its council-appointed board members (who include Councillor Jo Coughlan, and Glenys Coughlan who is also CEO of Positively Wellington Venues, another council company) should be asking hard questions about the expenditure of $14,000 for midnight movie tickets.

Wellington tourism worth $2600 a minute, says PWT

The costly record of Wellington Waterfront Ltd


  1. Ron M. Oliver, 9. November 2012, 11:23

    It must be extremely hard for elected Councillors to have to put up with many persistent members of the community biting at their heels all year long over their generosity to favoured members of the public and visitors who need special treatment, especially when it is at the expense of ratepayers and the community.
    I don’t see why councillors should put up with such nonsense. Why don’t you all resign en mass and teach us all a big lesson. That would show us wouldn’t it?

  2. richard maclean, 9. November 2012, 12:58

    Greetings – and just by way of clarification that the piece above is fundamentally incorrect and misleading with its insinuation that the ratepayers of Wellington – including residents – have had to stump up to pay for the Hobbit tickets promotion at the Embassy.

    Positively Wellington Tourism is funded by the City Council and businesses in the tourism sector as well as by neighbouring regions, airlines and through Joint Venture projects with Tourism New Zealand.

    The funding from the Council is 100% derived from a levy on commercial ratepayers in the CBD – so Scoop readers can rest easy that they are not being stung.

    Despite Scoop’s lofty conclusion about the value of the promo event, we’re well aware that PWT has extensive experience in this area and we’re confident the $14,000 is money well spent.

    The screening is a part of a number of events that PWT and other organisations are involved in that relate to The Hobbit premiere. A significant part of PWT’s role is to market Wellington in such ways as will grow the city economy in ways that support the Council’s economic development strategy.
    cheers Richard MacLean – WCC Communications

  3. traveller, 9. November 2012, 16:36

    How does giving away 750 movie tickets to Wellingtonians help to market the city and grow its economy?

  4. Lindsay, 9. November 2012, 16:39

    Richard: re the $1.1m that the council is spending to support the world premiere – is this also from the business levy and not from residential rates?

  5. Nora, 9. November 2012, 21:47

    Can one assume that all the councillors and partners will also have free tickets…another one of their many “freebies”.

  6. Peter, 10. November 2012, 9:34

    So, the Council’s spin doctor has laid another smokescreen of semantics to pretend that the usual trough feeders are not getting another freebie. It would be appreciated if Mr. McLean answered the questions that were raised.

  7. Michael Gibson, 10. November 2012, 12:33

    Firstly: I respect Mr Richard MacLean.
    Secondly, it must be recognised that his rate-payer funded propaganda can often be distorted rubbish. An example is his pathetic claim that rates paid by businesses are not rates but a levy.
    I will be drawing this to the attention of the Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, & the Council’s Chief Executive, Mr Garry Poole, for their comment on Mr MacLean’s deliberate attempt to mislead those who fund him (Wellington ratepayers) & to distort this matter.

  8. Grant Buist, 11. November 2012, 1:47

    To be fair, that $14,000 breaks down to only $1 per Warg.

  9. Richard Shea, 11. November 2012, 20:34

    It’s some indication of how detached council funded organisations become from reality when Mr MacLean suggests that because PWT is funded from the “Downtown Levy” it has no cost to Wellingtonians. Here’s the news – Wellingtonians use and own those businesses and – surprise – the prices those businesses charge reflect the taxation applied to them so let’s not pretend that it’s some sort of magic money conjured up from nowhere.

    Meanwhile when is PWT going to answer the questions raised and stop their attempts to spin a situation which blown up in their face ? Let’s start with who was going to get the tickets before plan B was adopted ?

  10. Richard MacLean, 13. November 2012, 19:23

    Traveller: the answer to your question is that a promo internet competition gives people from all over the country the opportunity to be in to win tickets to the screening. This fits with PWT’s role of marketing the city – and there is a clear link to its role in growing the economy of the city.

    Lindsay: the $1.1 million budgeted for the premiere is from a targeted commercial rate – so yes that is also not coming from residential rates.