Wellington Scoop

Why the movie museum should be financed privately, not by ratepayers

by Helene Ritchie
I support a Movie Museum for Wellington and I support the talents of the people who will be running it. But I consider it should be privately financed.

The Wellington City Council made a unanimous decision today to go out to consultation on the expenditure of approximately $134 million of rates funds to build the privately-owned movie museum and a council owned and operated convention centre. The final decision, after March 15, will be subject to a business case received by Council after the consultation.

The question that needed to be explored much more fully by the Council is not only the priority for council spending but also the ratepayer risks involved in this venture. The council/ratepayers will construct, purchase and own the building, but will not operate the film museum.

The Council will be responsible for unexpected maintenance. It will fund all operating costs and losses of the convention centre which will be operated by the council company Positively Wellington Venues. It is intended that the Council will take on the operational financial risk of the convention centre, surpluses or losses flowing to the Council.

Currently according to the long term plan, the Council will (already, without this project) subsidise PWV over 10 years by $209.516 million for operating costs.

I made the following points in the less than 3 minutes allocated for this important decision.

The Wellington City Council is becoming known for a “soft touch”.

I support a film museum in Wellington, and support the very real talents of Sir Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Sir Richard Taylor, Tania Rodger and the people who work for them.

I support the film precinct in Miramar including Weta Cave, and all that offers for employment, tourists, and education.

But, I generally do not support Government handouts or local government handouts to profitable private entities who do not need such funding. (Peter Jackson is 14th on New Zealand’s rich list.)

So, though I have supported the land purchase opposite Te Papa, I consider that the Movie Museum should be privately funded, with the land rented to it by the Council at a commercial return for the Council and the ratepayers.

The Convention Centre is in danger of becoming a white elephant and a significant call on ratepayer funds, and it threatens other significant Council owned buildings which readily suffice for conventions and complementary facilities.

Wellington’s Town Hall is one. It has the same capacity to hold conventions and conferences as the proposed new convention centre, but better additional “breakout rooms “, and strengthening is half the cost of the combined film museum/convention centre. Instead it languishes closed.

My concern is also around the timing of this consultation, with a consequent inability to compare the Council spending priorities through the normal draft annual plan (budget) exercise that we are about to embark on.

This $134 million spend has taken priority.

Further, the consultation process is a farce for two reasons. The first is that the outcome has clearly been predetermined. The Deputy mayor has been reported in the media prior to consultation, that “the change would see funding (set aside for the movie museum) brought forward…… progress is being made on the project, which he expected would start before the end of the year.” Such predetermination not only is legally able to be challenged, but also makes a farce of the consultation..and tests the Council’s credibility. The second reason is because the business case will not be available to the public during the consultation.

The unanimous vote today was for the matter to go out to public consultation – I supported that and will be pleased to hear what the public has to say before deciding finally on this after March 15.

Helene Ritchie is a Wellington city councillor.

More on the Movie Museum: Spending millions, with promises


  1. Andy, 10. February 2016, 20:19

    How did the Council find $134 million of dollars to fund this project, yet their is no money for the Town Hall strengthening. The Council is selling the Michael Fowler car park and Jack Ilott Green to developers to help fund this strengthening. Stop the Council from selling green spaces to fund projects!

  2. Wendy, 10. February 2016, 22:29

    Exactly Andy – your question needs to be asked of those councillors who voted to spend all this money. Good on Councillor Ritchie for raising all the concerns.
    Given the money has been allocated, the land been bought, and according to the Deputy Major the project is due to start at the end of this year, I am absolutely fed-up with what seems reckless haste to spend enormous amounts of public money without due consultation. This, on top of a decision to sell off precious inner city green space to go towards funding the Town Hall (because the councillors did not make it a priority years ago and now the costs have spiralled out of control) is irresponsible.
    Decisions like this should not be made until after this year’s council elections. Hopefully we will then have a more responsible bunch of people taking over who don’t need to be left with the mess created by many of the current councillors.

  3. Hel, 10. February 2016, 23:35

    This is a fantastic proposal and I look forward to reading the consultation material.

  4. Anabel, 11. February 2016, 7:13

    The WCC is “working for business interests” in its actions and decision making. Only its PR words say otherwise (seeking popularity for the next election).
    Unfortunately Wendy the top level of the WCC, the drivers of the WCC, do not change come election time. The WCC no longer knows its function and its madness is displayed in both its projects and decision making process. The WCC refusal to listen to ratepayers, or acting as a pay out of subsidies to big businesses, does not change with the elections.
    On a positive note, it’s good to see a number of ratepayers waking up to the lies they are being told to manipulate them.

  5. paul, 11. February 2016, 13:24

    Private ventures should come from the private purse, public ones from the public purse. If WCC is not going to reap the profits from such a museum, and by infereance the people of Wellington, then it should be funded privately.
    The Council should support and assist such wonderful ventures, but the line should be drawn at helping to actually fund them.

  6. Ben, 11. February 2016, 15:55

    I am all for the museum. I think it is a great idea but it should NOT BE the ratepayers who are funding this. How can councillors justify what they are doing when, on one hand they claim they have no money to strengthen the town hall (which is their excuse to hock-off Jack Ilott Green to developers), then on the other hand can suddenly find millions to fund their “big flash” project. This is all downright scary. There are absolutely no real guarantees for the ratepayers, so what is going to happen if/when commercial reality does not equal expectations. I guess there is always Frank Kitts Park to hock-off to developers for the construction of flash apartments when they bankrupt the city No doubt the only people making money and benefiting from all of this will be the private sector.

  7. observer, 12. February 2016, 12:54

    What a massive WCC subsidy. ‎Ratepayers shouldn’t have to pay for the museum building – or at the very least they should be sharing in any profits.

  8. Keith Flinders, 24. February 2016, 10:34

    Ratepayers have very deep pockets, as every WCC councillor will tell you ! If this project was a viable commercial one, then private interests would be lining up to be involved. The fact that none are speaks volumes. Wellington needs more hotel rooms, according to the tourism interests, so a new hotel incorporating a conference centre would be the best use of the land already ratepayer owned. Developed by commercial interests would mean no risk to the ratepayers, and if a film museum could be incorporated so much the better. In reality it matters not if the film museum is in the same complex as it could easily be accommodated in an existing CBD building at far less cost.