Wellington Scoop

Mayors choose Kings Wharf as site for 12,000 seat indoor arena

Image from WCC

The region’s mayors yesterday decided that a site on Kings Wharf would be their first choice for a new 12,500 seat indoor arena. However they were told that required in-ground work was the largest unknown factor in assessing the feasibility to build and the cost. And the site was complicated by the status of the port and port planning processes.

Complicated indeed – the area, owned by Centreport, was this week named as a potential site for a new interisland ferry terminal.

The mayors were also told that geotechnical issues affecting a new arena included reclamation, liquefaction, and lateral spreading; land remediation and ground improvement would be required, as would seawall improvements to protect reclamation and against lateral spreading. Foundation and enabling costs could not be estimated without more work.


News from WCC
Sites for a new indoor concert arena in Wellington have been narrowed down, with the most likely spot at Kings Wharf on the waterfront. Five potential sites were put forward to yesterday’s Greater Wellington Regional Strategy Committee meeting, including three on CentrePort land.

“The Kings Wharf option has been identified as clearly the best location,” says Wellington Mayor Justin Lester.

The project has in-principle support from the region’s mayors, he says.

A 12,000-seat arena has been identified as crucial if the capital wants to attract large-scale national and international acts.

“The market is there in Wellington but we don’t have the offering. The Gemba report earlier this year told us that.” The report from the sport and entertainment agency, released in April, looked at the constraints of the 6000-seat TSB Arena. It also examined trends in arena development, the competitive landscape and the health of the live entertainment and large event industry. It estimated the larger events a 12,000-seat indoor arena could attract could be worth about $26 million in GDP to the region per year.

“Bigger acts could make New Zealand a destination by performing at bigger venues in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, rather than tacking us on to the end of an Australian tour,” the Mayor says.

“The arena could be the catalyst for a raft of new development in the area, with a mixture of commercial, retail and residential, both private and affordable. The precinct development would be required to off-set the costs of a new arena.

“The next step will be working with our partners on the land and looking at the precinct development options. The design concept that we saw yesterday in the presentation looked great and we are excited about this opportunity.”

The planning work would be done in parallel with CentrePort’s work on a potential new multi-use ferry terminal.

Lindsay Shelton: Ferry terminal or (another) concert hall?

Report from RNZ
The preferred location for an indoor arena in Wellington has been found, but it will be months it’s known if the land is free to be built on. Mayors from across the region discussed the options at a meeting yesterday, and believed Kings Wharf, owned by Centreport, was the best place to put a 12,000-seat indoor arena.

Earlier this year five options were released, including the Centreport option.

Kings Wharf was one of the only places in the city an indoor arena would be successful, mayor Justin Lester said.

But first the council needed to secure the land.

“We currently don’t own it, it’s in the ownership of Centreport, and at the moment they’re not clear what their future use of that land will be. There’s an exciting opportunity, that it could work, but we won’t know that for sure until the second half of 2019.”

A report earlier this year said that an indoor arena with 12,000 seats could bring about $26 million into the region every year. It would mean acts like Ed Sheeran, or Taylor Swift, who had bypassed the city in the past, might stop in, Mr Lester said.

If the Centreport land was not available, the project would go back to the drawing board, but everyone believed Kings Wharf was the best place for the arena.

Centreport is considering where to put a multi-use ferry terminal, and Kings Wharf is one of two preferred locations. The new terminal would provide infrastructure for both Interislander and Bluebridge ferries, and would be part of a new masterplan for the port, including a new cruise ship terminal, and potentially changing the configuration of the container terminal and log yard.

Regional Council chairperson Chris Laidlaw said a multi-agency approach was being taken to the whole precinct. It was a complex matrix, because the city’s transport plan, called Let’s Get Wellington Moving, also had to be taken into consideration.

It would be fantastic to have an arena in the area, and possibly housing, Mr Laidlaw said. “There are a lot of players in this, there are a lot of difficulties in this, because there are a lot of corridors, we want to speed up public transport through that, we want more people cycling and walking through the area, all those have got to be fitted into the matrix.

“It’s a gigantic operation, and it’s going to take us another nine months to get there.”

Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency chief executive Lance Walker said it was hoped the arena would become the best in the country. The arena would provide a space for more than concerts. “We’re talking sporting events, big family events like Cirque de Soleil and Disney on Ice, so it really is designed to attract a whole range of events.”


  1. greenwelly, 28. November 2018, 9:27

    Mr Laidlaw said…….because the city’s transport plan, called Let’s Get Wellington Moving, also had to be taken into consideration

    Well given that it’s taken 4 years for LGWM to produce no recommendation, I would not hold my breath on this….Also WCC still have reasonably large financial commitments for the Town hall upgrade and the promised convention centre? This all seems very much like a “new shiny thing” to distract from the total inertia of current council projects – plus the ongoing bus debacle.

  2. Andrew, 28. November 2018, 9:30

    At least it is not underwater (yet) like the Auckland proposition. Is this the most resilient place to be building an arena? How about the function of an arena after a natural disaster? It is of little use if it has been swamped by a tsunami. I understand the attraction of the location but there are so many unknowns. In my opinion, so many unknowns that they should have held off on the announcement as it only inflates people’s expectations. The local body elections may play a part in the timing of this?

  3. Traveller, 28. November 2018, 9:41

    Buildings on the waterfront (not that any more are needed) should be outward looking, open to the harbour and its magnificent panoramas, not closing them off. But judging by the warnings about geotechnical issues, and the recent failures of two comparatively new structures, this decision can’t be likely to make any progress.

  4. Leviathan, 28. November 2018, 9:46

    The site happens to be right where the ex-BNZ building sits. The building that is yet to be demolished. The site that they haven’t yet got permission to build on? The site that is also being considered for the new Super ferry terminal… Up to six ships sailing twice a day – with millions of tonnes of freight from hundreds of trucks daily – mixing in with 12,000 Fans screaming at the latest teen heart-throb – I see a serious clash occurring.

  5. luke, 28. November 2018, 9:55

    I thought that the BNZ building was coming down?

  6. Creme egg, 28. November 2018, 10:21

    Given that they couldn’t even predict what was going on under the ground where the new bus hubs are, i’d say steer well clear of this site.

  7. Iona Pannett, 28. November 2018, 11:23

    Climate change anyone? A very surprising choice. [via twitter]

  8. Victor Davie, 28. November 2018, 19:56

    The former BNZ Harbour Quays building was completed in 2009, and despite having 30m piles the building succumbed to recent earthquakes. Mr Laidlaw has shipping requirements in mind for this land and surely this must remain CentrePort’s first priority. The Wellington Regional Stadium Trustees need to encourage the Thorndon community to allow later times for evening concerts etc. More importantly, put a roof on the stadium. Now there’s a challenge for them!

  9. Guy M, 28. November 2018, 20:33

    Victor Davie – the Stadium can never have a roof – the structure was not designed for it. It can simply not ever happen. End of discussion.

    Meanwhile, the pile foundations to the BNZ are a very different thing. Assuming that the BNZ building is removed, there will be a whole new foundation to any future Arena building on / near that site. Existing foundations will be irrelevant. Any new structure would be Base Isolated. Which means any new building should be alright. The bigger question is : is that the right location for an Arena? Or is it better for a Terminal? Ferry? Or Light Rail?

  10. City Lad, 28. November 2018, 22:49

    Saturday’s Phoenix match has convinced me the present circular open design with seating miles away from the action is ridiculous. Demolish the existing building and construct a rectangular stadium with a roof. Otherwise Wellington will remain in the wilderness.

  11. Chris Calvi-Freeman, 29. November 2018, 8:58

    I’m keen to know why this site trumps the above-the-railway-tracks at Wellington station, where the Fran Wilde Walkway and associated ramps could be utilisied and trains are close. [via twitter]

  12. Andrew, 29. November 2018, 9:24

    It sounds like Councillors were excluded from this Chris? I wonder where the money came from to pay the architects for the concepts and renderings? Willis Bond?

  13. Graham C Atkinson, 29. November 2018, 9:33

    As a 2000kg weight limit for vehicles applies over the whole of the Fran Wilde Walkway (imposed at the time of opening) clearly anything built here would have to have foundations right down through the rail yards which would create major disruptions to rail services probably for years.

    That being said I’m not convinced anything could be safely built on the proposed site.

  14. Tony Jansen, 29. November 2018, 12:07

    The left hand is not talking to the right hand. GWRC, WCC and the hapless WREDA are “all at sea” over this debacle. Is it any wonder not a single decent sized project has got off the ground with these clowns all running amok.
    Don’t ever expect any recommendations from Let’s Get Wellington Moving either. This entity was captured long ago by the roading lobby and unless we all agree to more motorways, flyovers and the like (just like Auckland) we will get nothing out of this. A waste of time and resources. Whilst Wellington founders in its own inertia, other regions and cities are leaping ahead of us. We are becoming the laughing stock of the nation.

  15. glenn, 29. November 2018, 13:13

    Can i make a comment, if the current crop of regional politicians, including the inept wrc, are planning on building anything on this site, then don’t use the buffoons who designed the last buildings that stood here. Go find the guy who built the little old brick building, probably at least 100 years ago, and is still standing today, while all and sundry gets pulled down around it