Wellington Scoop

Wasteland: Courtenay Place


by Alana Bowman
The usual scene in Courtenay Place has been replaced by the new usual scene in Wellington and around the world – empty streets.

It’s a good thing, and it shows we’re all doing the best we can for ourselves and everyone around us – staying off the streets or, when we are there, keeping our distance.

Walking through Courtenay Place the other day (part of my officially approved exercise circuit) I was able to document a bit of history as it is being made.


It is quiet – not still like a meadow or around a lagoon – but no noise. When a car or a bus passes it is noticeable and almost jarring.


A single car waits for a traffic light with no other vehicles in any direction.


The bus schedule sign is lit and indicating that buses will arrive soon. But there is no one waiting for them. And across the road: the long-abandoned Readings Courtenay Central cinema multiplex – its American owners having shown no sign of wanting to reopen it, even before the pandemic. And the city council having shown no interest in encouraging them to reopen.


It’s late in the afternoon so soon the streets should be filling with party people – but not tonight. And good on every one of the party people for staying home. We will certainly party again.




  1. Leviathan, 18. April 2020, 9:28

    Courtenay Central is an interesting dilemma for Wellington. Closed for years(?) already, we still don’t know why it was really closed, and now nor do we care. Let’s face it – the cinemas upstairs are never coming back. They were never a good thing and now they are just a potential Covid breeding ground. And downstairs is the world’s most miserable indoor mall, also a potential social-distancing nightmare.

    But it could make a good place for a Library…

  2. Conor, 18. April 2020, 11:41

    Courtenay Central + the carpark + the convention centre is a lot of well placed real estate.

  3. michael, 18. April 2020, 15:50

    I believe the library must stay where it is. It is an iconic award winning building, next to Civic Square, and there seem to be no reasons why it shouldn’t be strengthened. And if there are any reasons, why haven’t WCC come out with them instead of remaining silent.

  4. TrevorH, 18. April 2020, 21:38

    Courtenay Place is sadly a slum. A bulldozer would be the best solution.

  5. Bruce Gibbins, 19. April 2020, 9:47

    The views of Courtenay Place are reminiscent of a Sunday-all-day in the 1960s. Never referred to as a wasteland, an absence of people and cars was just another normal day in paradise.

  6. Dyan, 19. April 2020, 12:56

    Courtenay Place is, in my opinion, the loveliest part of the city apart from Oriental Bay. I hope the buildings are never scrapped and replaced with awful high rise structures as has been done on Lambton Quay.

  7. Mate Rewiri, 19. April 2020, 19:04

    Courtenay Place was one of my favorite parts of Wellington back in the 90s. In the 70s it used to be the place where workers would go for breakfast before they went to work. In those days there were only a few Greek restaurants and Chinese takeaways.

  8. Ellen, 22. April 2020, 19:04

    Great tour through Courtenay Place. Of course there are still local people out walking so the streets are not quite empty. Courtenay Place could again serve as a more local retail area with a greater variety of shops (anyone remember the video shop, the gift shop, the hairdresser and all). WCC encouraged the bars in this area so can encourage other activity now. Looking forward to a renovated and fresh look around the bus stops with more public seating, better bus shelter design, and improved pedestrian flow. Should fit nicely into one of the funding buckets.