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.
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.