Does the Hilton need our money?

Are Wellington ratepayers to be asked to help finance a Hilton Hotel near Te Papa? There seem to be contradictory expectations.

Developer Mark Dunajtschik is quoted in the DomPost as expecting money from the council:

“We still need a lot of decisions from a number of people. Probably the very first one is the council.” The Wellington City Council would provide an as yet unspecified amount for the project but only if the business case, which is still being developed, stacked up and is approved by the full council next month.

However the city council’s news release on the same day states something different in its “background information”:

No capital investment or construction risk for the city

And then there’s a quote from Mayor Wade-Brown in the DomPost report, seemingly at odds with her council’s news release:

Financial input from the council would most likely be justified. “The economic benefits to Wellington go far wider than directly to the convention centre and the hotel. It’s good for Wellington business as a whole, and good for employment.”

More specific information came from her colleague Councillor Coughlan. She told BusinessDesk that the convention centre was likely to require a three-year council subsidy.

Which leaves us waiting for official clarification from the council about just what it’s expecting to do. Another question: why was the council announcement so coy about the location of the proposed Hilton Hotel and its “vast” convention centre. The location, and the hotel chain, were both named in the DomPost report. But the council mentioned neither of them.

It did however give an assurance that the location was “non-controversial” and that “resource consent is not required to be notified.” These were the words of the mayor, but she later qualified her statement by tweeting “it is unlikely to be a notified resource consent, as long as it is within District Plan rules.”

All of which suggests that while it’s evident the hotel and convention centre “to put us ahead of Christchurch and Auckland” are being fast-tracked, they are still very much a work in progress.



  1. Pollyanna, 21. May 2014, 16:22

    The big question is “how many conferences a year would host 2500 delegates?”

    I understand the InterContinental is a 5 star hotel, as is the new hotel being built in Bolton Street, and like all the major hotels and other venues in the greater Wellington region that provide conference facilities, they are not subsidised by the ratepayers.

  2. CC, 21. May 2014, 20:34

    Most of the money attracted by a conference centre will immediately leave Wellington en-route to elsewhere in the country, head off shore and at best, perpetuate the low-wage casual work fueled service industry. In reality, the Chow brothers and Jacqie LeProu probably already add more to the local economy that the Hilton chain will. However, it is encouraging to see that the ratepayers may be assisting a high turnover local industry by attracting wealthy conference attending philanderers with another prime-site monument to dumb thinking.

  3. Hel, 21. May 2014, 20:39

    I think you’ll find none of the hotels in Wellington have conference facilities anywhere near this scale, and the other largish venues in Wellington are heavily subsidised by the Council or in the case of Te Papa the Crown. I think a Hilton and a large conference centre in Wellington sounds great and let’s see what they come back with before getting into the negative mode.

  4. Rudi, 22. May 2014, 1:37

    Why is the Council STILL giving money to business enterprises? Surely they should stand on their own two feet!

  5. Phil C, 22. May 2014, 2:06

    Monorail, monorail! Apol. to The Simpsons. If ratepayers are being asked to fork out for a hotel for three years, then there is a good deal of government by brown paper envelope going on. There’s plenty of capacity in the city already for the small conferences that infrequently hit town.

  6. peter@east-welly, 22. May 2014, 13:03

    The Parkroyal/InterContinental abandoned its 18th floor conference centre a number of years ago as it proved non-commercial.
    Best views in town at the time, great facilities, but even with everything they had to offer, they couldn’t make it viable. They still have a number of other conference facilities. The Amora has the “Ballroom” which can accommodate a relatively large number.
    Question: why is it that so many business operators expect ratepayers to pick up the tab to keep them in business?

  7. Elaine Hampton, 22. May 2014, 17:00

    How many 2,500 participant conferences can we expect? Except on rare occasions, there are enough hotel beds in the city. If a project is viable, it can stand alone without a subsidy from ratepayers. So 1980s – subsidising big business because it is good for us!
    Then we will build a flyover and a big State Highway One one through the city and put punters off ‘destination Wellington’
    Makes sense – not.

  8. Esjay, 23. May 2014, 10:44

    Wait a minute, WCC is already in bed with the Airport who are going to build a hotel it seems. Could there be a problem here – conflict of interest? Then again look how the airport rules the roost when it’s the main shareholder. Could WCC fall into the same trap, or avoid it by calling it a subsidy? No one to date that I can recall has provided the amount to be gifted.The City Council is already toying with the idea of a $2-3 hundred million commitment to the runway extension, so when will all this gifting end? No problem giving away someone else’s money!

  9. Helen Rhodes, 24. May 2014, 14:22

    In the 20th Century, the Wellington Show Buildings regularly hosted catered conferences for 3000 but those times have passed.

    Surely a large international commercial enterprise, like the Hilton, won’t need any subsidies, indeed they are likely to be insulted at such a suggestion. Private enterprise stands on its own feet, doesn’t it! Seriously, public subsidies are for public good projects only, not for commercial projects that benefit companies and shareholders above the citizenry who are unlikely to use their facilities or buy their products.

  10. JKP, 31. May 2014, 20:49

    If I am to pay for part of this Hilton, then I’ll expect shares in the hotel.


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