Wellington Scoop

Lester and Lavery back $154m convention centre


News from WCC
The Wellington City Council will next week decide whether to proceed with a new Convention and Exhibition Centre. It will consider a proposal that the centre be developed on Council-owned land on Cable Street, opposite Te Papa, at a cost of $154.3million.

The building with 18,000 square metres of floor space will cater for conventions of up to 2200 people and the 1651sq m exhibition area will attract international exhibitions. The City Strategy Committee will vote on the centre next Thursday.

December 13: Councillors support convention centre
“I’m strongly in favour of the centre and throwing my full support behind it,” says Mayor Justin Lester. “What is proposed is a state-of-the-art convention centre complemented by an exhibition space that will attract touring exhibitions such as Harry Potter, Marvel, World of Wearable Arts, Ballet Russe and Star Wars.

“Our Council has an ambitious social programme to make Wellington a fairer place to live, but we also need a strong economic platform upon which we can base it,” says the Mayor. “We need to encourage tourists and conference visitors to our city and will benefit from the jobs it will create.

“Wellington’s convention industry is worth $240 million a year. The Australasian and Asian convention market is growing and we are missing out on big conventions because we don’t have the appropriate space.

“This project has been more than five years in the making and what it now needs is a favourable decision from the Council.”

Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery says the project is ready to go and, once resource consent is granted, construction could begin in August 2019. It could be completed by 2022.

“The project will also be the spark for a lot of development in the surrounding area, which now is basically dedicated to cars and carparks.

“This is a major win for the city and continues to build momentum behind the Council’s vision for Wellington: working together for Wellington’s future.”


  1. Lindsay, 8. December 2018, 11:30

    It keeps getting more expensive. Back in 2016, councillors supported paying for a building costing $134m. In less than a year they approved paying for a building to cost $150m. Now they’re being asked to approve a spend of $154m – without the guarantee of any permanent or unique occupancy of the exhibition space. (When Peter Jackson’s movie museum pulled out of the previous plan, they said “the economics had proved to be a challenge” for them.)

  2. Blimey, 8. December 2018, 11:59

    What? Is this another election stunt?
    We need a mayor and CEO with sound judgement….what are these ongoing failures of vanity projects costing us?

  3. Ron Oliver, 8. December 2018, 13:44

    I do not think that some citizens appreciate what people like our mayor and his able supporters on the council are doing for us. Perhaps they do get a little too enthusiastic about their projects but hey!, why shouldn’t they spend up large at our expense. The wellington community did elect this council after all didn’t they? Perhaps the answer to that problem – if you consider it to be one – would be to make a bit more effort to be better represented.
    My own personal opinion about our present Councillors, perhaps with a few minor exceptions, is that their efforts would be better served being employed elsewhere. But this a democracy, isn’t it?

  4. Johnny Overton, 8. December 2018, 14:51

    After a slap in the face over Shelly Bay, you’d think this empire building team would have learnt their lesson. Oh no, the madness continues. Time for Lavery & Lester to call time on their p.c. neo-liberal agenda. Next election I may ride back into town, lower my sights & have a crack at becoming a Councillor.

  5. Bernard C, 8. December 2018, 15:05

    A very good example of the Council’s stupidity. Seems like their agenda is debt creation and they think up costly pet projects, that we do not need or want.

  6. Nora, 8. December 2018, 15:07

    Let us not forget the plans for a concert arena on port land – which if we are lucky could have 2 or 3 events a year, and will be even more costly than the convention centre. But of course with sea level rising this may not happen.

  7. Peter Kerr, 8. December 2018, 16:16

    As if all the adaptions for climate change effects in the city and region were items to be postponed for someone else to fix in the future, these bone-heads appear programmed to deliver circuses (not even bread and circuses), only.

    I hope voters, young enough to be worried about the dereliction at local government, take time to deliver candidates and the voting power to drive out the remnant of councillors who are rooted to last century’s growth and consumer economics.

  8. Marion Leader, 8. December 2018, 16:57

    Will Mayor Lester personally guarantee the figures?

  9. Ratepayer, 8. December 2018, 19:57

    Just wondering…will I the ratepayer, paying for this vanity, be able to use this for free? Isn’t the capacity the same as the Town Hall? Will Willis Bond be benefiting?
    Would residents in the area benefit more from a green space there..like high density London, or Stockholm.
    Just asking…but I never expect answers anymore.

  10. Alf the Aspirational Apterxy, 8. December 2018, 21:43

    Convention centres lose huge amounts of money and require ratepayer funding in perpetuity. I have absolutely no confidence in this Council, its Mayor or CEO who are digging this city’s fiscal grave. Time for a yellow high viz jacket?

  11. Andrew, 8. December 2018, 22:48

    The Mayor is always posting on social media, maybe try asking there. At the minimum others will also see any questions and could challenge people to consider what is being proposed.

  12. aom, 9. December 2018, 6:44

    So, Mayor Lester and CEO Lavery back the $154m convention centre. As this project has been developed by the council agency that morphed from Wellington Waterfront Limited into City Shaper and now Build Wellington, skepticism would not be misplaced. The most noticeable attribute of this entity has been that, apart from the Frank Kitts Park and Shelley Bay ‘sorta legal’ deals, their main projects have usually benefited the builder of the wall of buildings around the harbour. These deals have invariably been on developer friendly terms, have lacked public transparency and been under a veil of secrecy that even Councillors have not been able to penetrate. In each case, there has been an expectation the projects will be rubber-stamped by the elected but largely toothless governance body of councillors, leaving it to community organisations to fight against the deep legal fee pockets of the executive and the developer. In the case of the Convention Centre, Peter Jackson was not prepared to swallow rats to enable the development to appear viable, so now, apart from the millions of dollars the Council will have to spend each year to keep the centre solvent, there will also be ongoing costs to attract loss making ‘international exhibitions’.
    Before the Councillors vote on this project, it is to be hoped they will reflect on the fact that the benefits to the people of Wellington that have been extolled by the mayor and CEO will come at a significant cost to the ratepayers. Its exhibitions will have admission prices that will exclude the attendance of a large proportion of the general public, and any employment benefits will be largely for some highly paid trough-feeders and lowly-paid casual service workers. Of course, there will be the usual claims of mega-millions of dollars that will be generated for the city. The problem is that this income is not reducing the rates bills of those who will be expected to finance the ‘golden goose’ for the few who will benefit when it materialises.

  13. Heidi P, 9. December 2018, 6:48

    “fairer place to live” what a joke. By getting ratepayers further in debt to fund ridiculous unneeded building projects? If Lester and Lavery want to see a Harry Potter exhibition in Wellington they could bring it to any of the other venues owned by their council. The problems with council go up to the people influencing and directing the LTP and decisions. So voting as a solution for new council pawns (who do not represent our interests) really hasn’t helped us has it. We don’t have a say in the CEO either. It’s time to say we just do not have a democracy.

  14. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 9. December 2018, 12:13

    Despite the best efforts of the council’s tireless marketing team, the comments following this media release demonstrate there is not a lot of support for the proposed convention center. We suggest those councillors who wish to retain their seats through the next triennium consider the consequences of their actions before casting their vote on it.

    The “ambitious social programme” cited by the mayor amounts to social engineering intended to overthrow and replace society as we know it with their own engineered version of how they believe society should be. They are using a few platforms for this. Restrictions on where one may smoke and consume alcohol, promotion of their inept version of environmentalism which comes complete with speciesism in the form of the anti-companion animals factor, promotion of LGBTQ culture which includes indoctrination of pre-schoolers via “drag queen story time,” at local libraries, promotion of the Maori language, cycleways built in inappropriate places, not to mention inhibiting vehicle access for ‘artistic’ purposes as they did in Tory Street earlier in the year. All overseen by a surveillance system which would make Kim Jong Un drool. Citizens must question if it is the council’s place to direct and micromanage our society as they now attempt to do. This is a more insidious problem than the council shelling out megabucks of civic funds for grandiose schemes like the convention center. Responsible citizens have a duty to see through the matrix of programing being dispensed and resist. [Abridged]

  15. Mike Mellor, 9. December 2018, 13:38

    The relevant document for Thursday’s meeting is here , but the quality of reproduction makes it hard to read the graphics. I’ve asked WCC to put a better, legible copy online.

  16. Gillybee, 9. December 2018, 17:00

    Heidi P: Hear hear. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The technocrats are firmly in the driver’s seat.
    For those nostalgic for a time when people with practical skills and expertise ran the show, here’s a gem from Kathryn Ryan’s ‘Nine to Noon’ last week. Happy listening. ‘Infrastructure advice needed for government: ex-Commissioner of Works’

  17. Trumped, 9. December 2018, 23:23

    Do you know what public consultation there has been on this major expenditure for what is a new project, different in use and funding impact from the Peter Jackson one? I think that there hasn’t been any. There should be some – it’s our money and our mayor and CEO don’t seem to care. Which councillors care about their constituents’ opinions? Have you heard of any one of them who wiil move to make sure that we are consulted? Isn’t this required in law? [The latest business plan claims that the previous consultation on the convention centre/movie museum is relevant – though that plan was considerably different.]

  18. Tony Jansen, 10. December 2018, 9:16

    The economic benefit figures quoted for these sorts of projects I think are plucked from out of the sky. I have never been convinced about the financial credibility or viability of convention centres and without a permanent tenant, this white elephant does not financially stack up.
    This will end up being a financial millstone costing ratepayers for generations to come.
    But why are we surprised? Politicians are largely there to represent and serve the needs of the wealthy elites. These are the people who fund them, vote for them (mainly), and expect something in return after election time for their support. That is why Willis Bond and The Wellington Company get such preferential and often secret treatment. This has nothing at all to do with what the infrastructure the city needs, nor what the voters want. We now have the City Council playing at property development in the private market when their involvement in these areas should really be limited to social housing. But then this is a council that sets their social housing rent at market rates….

  19. Trumped, 10. December 2018, 11:10

    Re consultation with the ratepayers: There seems to have been none for this new project. The so-called business case talks about “targeted consultation” for the previous (Peter Jackson) project..which probably means … targeted to the business community and specific (supportive!) people, only. I doubt this would stand up in Court (again).

    So, it seems,
    1. There has been no consultation with those payers (us) of this new project.
    2. There seems to be no evidence being presented anywhere, and to the councillors, that there has been.
    Which councillors care enough about the opinions of their constituents that they will insist on consulting them before a decision if any is made?
    Where is the councillor who has the engagement portfolio (Diane Calvert?), and what does she think about this? What about the others? What do they think?

  20. Keith Flinders, 10. December 2018, 11:36

    These recent announcements have nothing to do with the local body elections in 10 months time, do they !

    $160 million plus for a convention centre, $120 million for a concert arena on un-compacted silt, $98 million, which will likely double, to re-instate the town hall, and $90 million to re-purpose the civic administration building to make it suitable for Vic’s music school. So an extra $570 million worth of borrowing, minimum, to be financed by ratepayers. Meanwhile aging and creaking poorly maintained infrastructure is set to add to the burden too.

    A convention centre built by private developers as part of a needed 5 star hotel, and erected on the ratepayer owned site, would make money for the city from ground rents and rates. Conversely any commercial operation run by the WCC is doomed to lose money.

  21. Tony Jansen, 11. December 2018, 11:01

    The convention centre has no public support. The secret deal made with developers and construction companies is still secret when it is imperative the public see what the council is getting us into. A privately developed international hotel combining a convention centre would not only take some pressure of Wellington’s overheated accommodation scene, but would be a far less financial risk for the council and rate payers alike.
    The Town Hall is acoustically world class and should never be taken out of public use to suit a bad corporate raider like VUW. The Civic Centre area should remain exactly that – a central area for local administration and arts. This has more to do with the council wanting to upscale into flasher offices than anything else. I organised the ground breaking ceremony for this when Belich was Mayor. I would hate to see this area become another part of the VUW empire.
    The press release for the waterfront stadium was just nonsensical. CentrePort will develop their inner harbour wharves into apartments. No doubt Willis Bond and the Wellington Company will be given these opportunities too instead of an open and transparent tendering process. More and more of our harbour is being blocked off by private enterprise.
    As Keith Flinders rightly points out, we have aging infrastructure which really needs attention now. But where is the glamour and kudos in that for a Mayor or councillor? Where is the profit to be made by developers and the like?
    The next elections will serve up largely the same collection of candidates and failed policies as the last. What are we going to do?

  22. Candidate, 11. December 2018, 19:13

    I reckon Andy Foster will stand to be mayor and so will Simon Woolf.
    Do they think we should be consulted?
    Do they think this nonsense vanity convention centre should be stopped?
    Are they going to vote against it?

  23. Peter, 11. December 2018, 23:22

    Candidate – you are probably wrong on two counts. Cr. Foster failed with a previous bid, and Cr. Woolf has a finely honed moral sense that precludes his contemplation of the Mayoralty. With regard to the convention centre, Mayor Lester needs a memorial to what is likely to be his one term and his CEO, who only has about a year left before he has to face competition for his job, will try to oblige. Will the Council vote against it? Most councillors will not be up to studying a massive load of cut an paste spin or consult with their electors – so no!

  24. Jonny Utzone, 12. December 2018, 9:51

    If it’s such a dead cert with a BCR of 5:1, why don’t Lavery and Lester just resign, start a company and build it for themselves with financial help from their rich mates and banker friends?

  25. greenwelly, 14. December 2018, 9:39

    Although it might still all fall over. Has anyone asked the Govt if they are going to stump up $25 million…..

    point 10 of the recommendation (on page 4) was
    10. Notes that funding from the Crown of $25m is included in the project budgets and discussions with the Crown are on-going and until confirmed by the Crown this funding remains at risk.