Wellington Scoop

What they’re not telling us about what’s on in Wellington

Wellington-City-view-from-Mt-Victoria__Focus 2
Photo from WREDA

by Lindsay Shelton
Wellington’s regional economic agency has been spending a lot of its post-lockdown energy promoting restaurants. And more recently highlighting the number of tickets sold for three events. But strangely left out of its promotions are some of the city’s most important and popular cultural activities.

At the end of last week, the council-owned WREDA (which has rebranded as WellingtonNZ) congratulated itself on the number of tickets sold for a Dr Seuss show, two shows by Benee, plus a Midwinter Meltdown Rave. It promised that these events would boost the city’s hospitality, retail and accommodation businesses. And it said its staff are “working tirelessly” to create more – “a great lineup of domestic content across all genres.” (The economic agency has not only changed its name, it’s also aiming to become an entrepreneur?)

A few days earlier it announced a promotion of favourite restaurant meals, telling us that “food provides the soundtrack to Wellingtonians’ lives,” and naming its campaign ‘Greatest Hits’. In the words of the economic agency’s Marketing General Manager Anna Calver:

“As Wellington’s economic recovery gains impetus following lockdown, its more critical than ever to support local hospitality businesses in an uncertain post-Covid world.”

As it fixes the economy with food, the Greatest Hits campaign chooses some of the agency’s favourite meals, naming Ortega Fish Shack’s ceviche, Pravda’s cheese scones, Chow’s Rosebud cocktail and blue cheese wontons, and Little Penang’s char koay teow – dishes which already appear on WREDA’s website, in a list of “top ten must try dishes.” Maybe there won’t be any surprises among the Greatest Hits as they boost the city’s economy.

During lockdown, the economic agency partnered with Wellington on a Plate to help pay for a one-stop-shop website listing food businesses that were offering home deliveries. It offered delivery rebates for businesses who signed up.

There was one conventional economic programme – interactive workshops “to help owners rebuild and reimagine their Wellington businesses in the wake of Covid-19.” And vouchers to be exchanged for business advice.

I’ll leave it to others to assess the economic importance of food promotions. My concern is about what hasn’t been included in the agency’s campaigns. Inexplicably, its most recent announcement fails to mention the this month’s two NZSO concerts in the MFC, with unusually low ticket prices and popular music.

It also fails to include the July 25 launch of Orchestra Wellington’s season, also in the MFC, with the country’s greatest pianist Michael Houstoun stepping in to replace a soloist from offshore who can’t get across the closed borders. The programme features Rachmaninoff’s most popular piano concerto – surely deserving of mentioning as an event of value.

Between them these three concerts offer the chance to sell 6000 tickets – which (if you accept the economic agency’s way of thinking) will mean that 6000 people are ready and willing to spend more money with hospitality, retail and accommodation businesses – thereby helping the economy.

I wonder if the economic agency is aware that the Wellington Film Festival (now in its 48th year and renamed as the New Zealand International Film Festival) sells more than 80,000 tickets – the city’s biggest annual mid-winter event ready to benefit the hospitality, retail and accommodation sector. But it doesn’t get a mention in the agency’s events announcement, which restricts its enthusiasm for Dr Seuss, Benee, and a rave.

The film festival, of course, is a smaller event this year – all the more reason why the agency should be promoting it. When the pandemic and lockdown arrived, the festival could no longer plan its usual screenings for audiences in cinemas. Hence the complex decision to reorganise as an online festival. (A plan that has also been followed by all the world’s biggest film festivals.) When the lockdown ended earlier than expected, it was too late to reassemble the usual cinema-only programme, but there will be a few screenings at the Roxy (bookings open on Friday) and the City Gallery.

The city council-owned Embassy Theatre, which has been the centre of the film festival’s schedule every year since restoration on the 1920s building was completed, is not however on the list for this year’s screenings. WREDA should be concerned about this – the absence of tens of thousands of cinemagoers from Courtenay Place will be a big loss for the area’s hospitality, retail and accommodation businesses. A minus for the economy that WREDA was set up to support.

Let’s advise WREDA to broaden its view of what’s on in Wellington (they should also be promoting Circa and Bats, San Fran and Valhalla and the Pyramid Club), and to ensure that they assemble a more inclusive summary of events when next they decide to review the number of tickets that are being sold.


  1. James, 8. July 2020, 9:54

    It would be useful to know from Wellington NZ/WREDA what they actually did to support/facilitate any of these events.

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 8. July 2020, 12:27

    Why aren’t Wellington City Councillors doing something about this organisation? Are they too old and ashamed, or too young and inexperienced to be asking questions. And, by the way, ask them in public please.

  3. David Mackenzie, 8. July 2020, 13:41

    Yes what are their staff “working tirelessly” at? Noticing what other people have organised, and adding that to their list of achievements, I suspect. But they’re not even doing that well, as Lindsay points out.

  4. Lindsay, 8. July 2020, 19:41

    The NZSO reports a full house for tonight’s concert in the NZSO (even though WREDA forgot to mention it).

  5. Hel, 8. July 2020, 21:39

    Check the WellingtonNZ website under Events, I use it all the time and it provides a comprehensive summary of events. The first event you’ll find in the what’s on this month is at Valhalla. Got my tickets to Kita and looking forward to a great night at San Fran, must have got lucky as this was through the WellingtonNZ site.

  6. Dave B, 8. July 2020, 23:42

    NZSO performed a great concert to a packed hall without WREDA’s help. Who needs WREDA?

  7. michael, 9. July 2020, 10:17

    Exactly Dave. WCC should look to Auckland City Council’s post-covid planning, and be asking the hard questions like, is this a necessary/essential service and, is it good value for money? I know what my answer would be.

  8. GrahamCA, 9. July 2020, 15:30

    You can’t close or reduce WREDA’s budget and staffing – it’s just had a new CEO appointed.