Wellington Scoop

Ferry terminal or (another) concert hall?


by Lindsay Shelton
Only six days after the Regional Council announced that Kings Wharf had been chosen as one of two options for a new ferry terminal, the region’s mayors had a different idea – they decided that Kings Wharf would be the best site for a new indoor concert arena.

The mayors made their decision after receiving advice from a WCC report which strangely made no mention of the ferry terminal decision. But the WCC should have told them, as it is one of “five partners actively involved” in the search for a multi-user terminal for Cook Strait ferries.

Announcing the need to move the terminal to a new single facility, the Regional Council’s Roger Blakeley said it was a once in a lifetime opportunity:

“This is a huge opportunity for Wellington and the wider region. Creating a more efficient facility with increased capacity would ensure we can benefit from forecasts of substantial Cook-Strait growth, with passenger numbers expected to increase by 70 per cent by 2025 accompanied by higher freight volumes. Using port land more efficiently would enable other significant opportunities to be realised including the development of a new cruise ship terminal and enhancement of public access to the waterfront.”

All of which sounds like a far more productive use of Kings Wharf than a concert arena that would be empty and unused for most of the year, as it waited for occasional international stars with the potential to sell 12,000 tickets and who didn’t want to perform in any of our six other large venues. (Westpac Stadium – which describes itself as New Zealand’s most utilised and well-attended stadium – was used for only 62 events in 2017, with few of them selling out its 34,000 seats.)

The mayors haven’t yet had to address the unknown costs, in their enthusiasm to build another concert venue. The WCC report told them that construction costs could be reasonably benchmarked – “but foundation and enabling costs cannot be estimated without more work.”

Mayor Justin Lester has mentioned $85m as the budgetted contribution from his city’s rates. However, announcing the arena site decision, he indicated that private companies are involved, though his statement did not name them:

“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.”

He gave more information when talking to the DomPost:

The arena would be developed in a private-public partnership similar to Spark Arena in Auckland. “I won’t go into names at the moment. We would go in with experienced promoters and venue operators, coupled with precinct development partners.”

Justin Lester will be well aware of his council’s financial commitments to some of the city’s other established and much-loved concert venues – $90m for strengthening the Town Hall (work was supposed to begin before the end of the year) and $30m for strengthening the St James, with the Opera House next in line for remedial work.

The mayor acknowledges that he knows about the plans for a new multi-use ferry terminal, and says “the [arena] planning work would be done in parallel.” It’s hard to believe, however, that an arena and a ferry terminal could co-exist on the same space, as Leviathan at eyeofthefish has convincingly pointed out:

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.

The PR people who came up with the illustration of the potential arena had no such worries. There’s no sign of a ferry terminal in their picture. Irrelevantly, however, they’ve added fireworks.


  1. Citizen Joe, 29. November 2018, 11:24

    More planning madness from GWRC/WCC! A freight/entertainment ‘hub’ that will sink us all in a sea of debt.

  2. Tony Jansen, 29. November 2018, 11:58

    Will the waffle emanating from the Mayor’s office ever cease. Wellington, due to its poor local governance, is fast becoming the laughing stock of New Zealand. I am sorry, but one rainbow crossing and a commitment to Te Reo in Wellington is not a lot for almost three years work….

  3. Tom, 29. November 2018, 13:46

    I don’t really think GWRC are serious about having the integrated ferry terminal at Kings Wharf, it seems to me that this was only presented as an option to give the much more favoured option, Kaiwharawhara, credibility. Having it at Kings Wharf would be a brainless thing to do, the increase of freight on Aotea Quay would be intolerable, it is not as easily serviced by rail (though the Interislander might be wanting to phase rail out anyway), and the amount of pollution it would bring to the central city and waterfront would raise the ire of many people. Then of course we have the fact that it would put a stop to both CentrePort’s and the WCC’s redevelopment agenda for the Northern end of the waterfront. I know CentrePort, for instance, has in its longterm plan the redevelopment in apartments of the finger wharves around Site 10, having the ferry terminal next door would scupper these plans completely.

    Also Kings Wharf is the far more sensible position for the cruise ship terminal; ferry passengers, by-in-large, aren’t heading for the Wellington CBD whereas all or most cruise ship passengers are heading for the CBD. Therefore, I think Kaiwharawhara will undoubtedly be chosen for the ferry terminal for its superior road and rail links and its distance from the central city and all the complications building a port in it brings (and also remember that it’s CentrePort who is making the decision).

    And surely it would be a much more positive outcome for the public if dirty, non-people friendly port activities were banished from the waterfront altogether and that the waterfront was extended another few hundred metres north. Although, I can’t get overly excited about an Arena (and of course they are inactive buildings 90% of the time) I think the benefits of the wider regeneration will counteract the relative imposition of an inactive building (which is only replacing another inactive building which was a warehouse) and will certainly be a better option than a mega ferry terminal.

  4. Hel, 29. November 2018, 22:22

    Tom, I think you have analysed the situation extremely well. I am surprised the Kings wharf location option for the ferry terminal has got as far as it has, as you say totally brainless. I think with good planning of the area and an extension of the public spaces on the waterfront the impact of the inactive arena can be offset.

  5. TrevorH, 30. November 2018, 7:20

    Between them the GWRC and WCC will bankrupt this city and destroy its livability if we let them. Both the concert venue and Kings Wharf location for the ferry terminal are fatally flawed as Tom eloquently argues. One year to go before we clean out the stables!

  6. Roy Kutel, 30. November 2018, 9:10

    TrevorH – Hmmm I think we will end up with another haras of pantomine horses!

  7. Traveller, 30. November 2018, 9:51

    I do not agree that the waterfront would benefit in any way from a huge inward-looking building that was closed and empty most of the time. A harbourside site is the wrong place for such a building – if, in fact, any business case can be created to prove that its enormous cost can in any way be justified, anywhere.

  8. Ben, 30. November 2018, 14:07

    We already gave away a prime waterfront site to an inward looking arena at Queens Wharf. Haven’t we learnt that lesson? I wouldn’t oppose a new and larger stadium – not least because the TSB Arena has really bad acoustics – but Kings Wharf is the wrong place for it. Why was the concourse option rejected?

    Conversely, I support the idea of having a combined ferry terminal on Kings Wharf. It’s closer to town than Kaiwharawhara (which is desolate), easier to get to for foot passengers, and I’m sure Aotea Quay could handle any extra traffic. I enjoy seeing the Bluebridge ferries arrive and depart from vantage points around Lambton harbour. It reminds me that I live in a port city.

  9. Alana, 30. November 2018, 15:38

    Another excellent, well researched article. Will Willis Bond be hiring soon for this project?

  10. Nora, 30. November 2018, 16:33

    Thank you Lindsay for this brilliant article. I totally agree with so many especially Trevor H, Traveller and Ben…This arena would be empty and unused for most of the year and so far for the so called supporters to walk from the CBD.
    Please Justin and WCC (forget about the other regions) push the Town Hall (we’ve been waiting for 6 years or more). I understand the plan for a National Centre of Music has been boosted by a $4 million Lottery grant and Civic Square has been gifted the te reo name Te Ngakau, which means the heart of the music centre. According to the same report, former Mayor Kerry Prendergast is leading the fund raising campaign.

  11. Tom, 30. November 2018, 21:31

    If we really think having an arena, hotels, offices, and apartments set in public spaces in this vicinity is to the detriment of the waterfront, then how on earth can we consider the alternative a better outcome? Unfortunately, some of us here are under this misapprehension. A ferry terminal is not some sort of pleasant public space, it is a loud, alienating, ugly, and dirty operation that belongs in this area in question as much as an abattoir or a nuclear power plant.

    An integrated ferry terminal for both companies – five ships between them – will be a monolithic operation involving vast vehicle marshalling yards that will require huge tracts of the waterfront to be ring-fenced in perpetuity, gargantuan car parking buildings (let’s get Port of Auckland to send down a copy of their plans shall we?), copious amounts of noise, fumes, and vibrations from what will be a 24/7 operation, and thousands of trucks daily going along Aotea Quay (if anyone doubts any of this then look at the renders for the proposed expansion of the terminal at Kawharawhara). We are not talking here about some sort of quaint terminal where people can mill around and intermix with the goings on at port, we are talking about heavy industrial activity that I personally want to see banished from the city end of the waterfront. Building a terminal here would be a disaster from any urban perspective and to the longterm detriment of the public waterfront and city.

    I understand the shortfalls of the arena proposal, but surely one inactive building in a relatively insignificant location is far more appealing than having a huge swathe of the waterfront locked away forever (not to mention the extreme deterioration of the air quality along the public waterfront and the lower CBD).

  12. Tony Jansen, 3. December 2018, 9:51

    Why one or the other at Kings Wharf? Why not the new ferry terminal at Kaiwharawhara (as long as this is 24/7 public transport linked). And the Indoor Arena on the disused railways land by the stadium? Why are our so called leaders so lacking in vision and imaginations? It is always a waterfront stadium that these pointy heads come up with. I for one would like to see the harbour, not a big shed. And yes I am intending to run for GWRC and I am most definitely not of equine stock!

  13. michael, 3. December 2018, 18:03

    Well said Tony and you already have my vote.
    GWRC and WCC seemed to be help-bent on completely destroying Wellington City and its waterfront. While other port cities are concentrating on making their harbourside beautiful and attractive with parks and trees etc for the public to enjoy, our councillors just want to cover everything with buildings and concrete. More rates for them to squander!

    Considering the damage to buildings and the port in the last earthquake, along with issues with global warming, would it not be more appropriate to create parks and areas for the public. At least these should be able to withstand earthquakes and flooding and, more importantly, they will ensure our waterfront is open, accessible and attractive. The last thing we need is another stadium clogging up the views.

    Roll on the elections!

  14. Heidi P, 3. December 2018, 18:17

    Yes but whats another election going to change or do michael?
    The same business RT appoint CEOs and the WCC don’t work for us.

  15. michael, 4. December 2018, 8:48

    @Heidi – you are right. The CEO and city council officers seem to run the council with councillors just rubber stamping their proposals and doing what they are told. Hopefully some stronger councillors more in tune with the public and less inclined to be using our council as a stepping stone to becoming a MP might be able to change things. I live in hope!!

  16. Anabel, 4. December 2018, 11:18

    Yes changes are needed in local and central govt as both councilors and MPs behave as though they are not elected by and for us. And we can’t see any evidence of a democracy, certainly not by their actions when they are semi -robotic corporate rubber stampers.
    I think we all need to change the way we think and feel and evolve into human beings. The corporate mantra ” for profit” is in the collective psyche (or as Scoop called it the hive).
    We need to be the change we want to see in the world.
    When we see hate we need to bring love.
    When we see lies we need to expose them by speaking the truth.

  17. michael, 4. December 2018, 12:26

    @ Annabel – some transparency, honesty, listening and genuine consultation from the council would go a long way to help things!