How many council staff are needed to change the Embassy’s light bulbs?

embassy march 2014
Lights out at the Embassy since last month

by Lindsay Shelton
I didn’t want to tell a bad joke for a third time. So I gave the council a third chance to show that it could replace some faulty light bulbs. But it’s been unable to do the job.

It started a few weeks ago when I noticed that most of the lights on the facade of the Embassy Theatre had gone out – again. Two thirds of the lights weren’t working, the centre ones were partly out and the rest were out of alignment. It was a disgrace for a landmark building which is the focus of Courtenay Place.

I’ve already written twice about the council’s inability to maintain the Embassy’s lights. I really didn’t want to write a third time about such a visible failure. So I phoned a friend at the council, said I didn’t want to write about the recurring failure for a third time, told him what needed fixing, and was promised the job would be done immediately. Weeks have passed. Nothing has happened. Two thirds of the lights are still not working. The central facade’s lighting is still out of alignment. So this is a third expose of the city council’s inability to change light bulbs on a central city landmark.

The first time the lights went out was back when Kerry Prendergast was mayor, a couple of years after the council had taken over ownership of the building from the trust that had been formed by Bill Sheat to save and restore it.

Like most Wellingtonians, I have a soft spot for the Embassy. I went to movies there when I was a teenager. I was proud when the Wellington Film Festival moved in. I joined the Trust that saved the building. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh were among the members. The detailed restoration work that re-created the beauty of the 1920s facade was carried out by Weta Workshop. After six years of raising money, we transferred ownership to the city council – that was the deal when it agreed to pay to complete restoration in time for the world premiere of the third Lord of the Rings.

When we handed over the building, the lights were perfectly adjusted. But within a couple of years, some of them started to go out, and the council never seemed to notice. That was when I wrote the first article, and phoned Mayor Prendergast, who sounded surprised but ensured that everything was fixed within 48 hours.

embassy apr 2013 2
Lights out at the Embassy in April last year

The lights went out for a second time a year ago, when I wrote a second article, and waited for ages for them to be fixed. Now they’ve failed for a third time. What I wrote a year ago seems to be unchanged:

I met a council officer who agreed he was the responsible person. He promised to ensure that the lights would be monitored. This article is a plea to him or to anyone else at the council who’s responsible for changing light bulbs. It should be a matter of pride. The lights need fixing. The Embassy is looking grotty at night. It should be a building that the city is proud of, rather than one that shows signs of being neglected.

Since last year, it’s evident that the promised monitoring hasn’t happened. The council’s neglect of the facade has continued. So, reluctantly, I get to ask the same question for a third time: “how many council staff are needed to change the lightbulbs?” Not to mention: “how long does it take the council to change the lightbulbs?” The council should be embarrassed by its continuing failure to do such a basic job.



  1. KB, 15. April 2014, 21:47

    The council doesn’t give a flying hoot about how the city looks – just look at the lack of Xmas decorations last year.

  2. Michael Gibson, 16. April 2014, 7:06

    The new CEO obviously has a struggle to improve on the Poole/Prendergast mess. How can the rest of us hope for improvement when this sort of thing can happen so publicly?
    It is the same casual approach that says that delivering 5 truckloads of dirt through a pre-school car-park every hour all day for 200 days affects nobody – which is the latest Council horror to afflict Curtis Street in Northland.

  3. City Lad, 17. April 2014, 8:00

    Lighting in the main foyer of the Embassy is also disappointing. So dim it’s virtually impossible to locate or read the blackboard display of daily programs. And occasionally the chalk handwriting is illegible or somebody has forgotten to include the times. A modern well lit electronic display is well overdue. Miramar’s Roxy has this facility.

  4. Nicola Young, 5. May 2014, 19:31

    I have checked this out with the WCC officers. Apparently the lights were decommissioned by the project team that set up The Hobbit display. The WCC’s maintenance team didn’t realise this, so have been repairing the lights individually (as they blow) in the central part of the Embassy building. The WCC is now reinstating the lights, and upgrading them to energy efficient bulbs. They are also upgrading the switches to ‘sensor controlled’ ones, as the existing system kept the lights on 24 hours a day.
    - Nicola Young, Wellington City Councillor for Lambton Ward.


Write a comment: