Wellington Scoop

Wharewaka, wharerugby, whareparty

Wellington’s new $11million wharewaka on Taranaki Wharf was supposed to be “a permanent expression of Maori art and culture.” But for six weeks next year it’s to be downgraded to become a place for parties and the sale of souvenirs.

“More than 1200 partygoers will be able to pack into the wharewaka,” reports the Dominion Post on the city council’s decision this week to make this new building the centre of a Rugby Village for the Rugby World Cup.

It seems that the city’s two ceremonial waka may have to be moved out of their new home, to make way for partygoers.

With 50,000 visitors expected in Wellington for the Rugby World Cup, the Te Wharewaka O Poneke Trust might have been expected to welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the rich heritage of waka culture. Instead, its new wharewaka will be used to demonstrate the Kiwi culture of rugby and beer. (But not New Zealand beer – Heineken is the official sponsor). All but one of Wellington’s city councilors voted for commercial use of the wharewaka. The only opposition came from Councilor Iona Pannett, who felt the plans were over the top.

The council has already spent $800,000 to help pay for the building, disregarding a poll in the Dominion Post where 84 per cent of respondents opposed the expenditure and said it was “outrageous.” Now a further $150,000 will be spent to rent it as “the base for the World Rugby Village” which will be part of a “festival of activity” during the rugby event.

The wharewaka will be given official RWC branding. It’ll sell Rugby World Cup t-shirts and souvenirs – but only the ones which are officially licensed.

The city council is enthusiastic about such commercial activity. Its vision for the wharewaka is as a place for event sponsor promotions and giveaways, areas for rugby merchandising, capacity for Rugby World Cup theming and branding … meet-the-player sessions and autograph sessions, media promotions, recruitment and training of staff, and fund-raising. Almost as an after-thought, this week’s report to the council mentions that the wharewaka will also be used for a cultural experience including powhiris and Kapa Haka, cultural performances and entertainers … If there’s any space left for them in between the rugby-focused events and the souvenir stalls.

What a comedown from the original vision for the building, as stated by Sir Ngatata Love three years ago: ““The purpose of the development is to bring waka culture to life around Wellington’s harbour and beyond … for events that celebrate waka and their use, together with local Maori history.”

But waka culture is being pushed aside, in favour of sponsored sport.

Councilors (except for Cr Pannett and Cr Pepperell) also voted to spend $350,000 on a sculpture of a rugby ball, to be erected near the wharewaka. And even this doesn’t satisfy the extravagant dreams. They’re hoping that the eight-foot inflatable rugby ball (the one that was taken to Paris, London and Tokyo) will be on the waterfront as well. A budget for its cost hasn’t yet been added to the list of World Cup spending (which includes $500,000 to rebuild the Courtenay Place public lavatories so tourists won’t be offended by the current ones, which the council feels are looking “tired”). But whatever it costs to have a party for rugby fans next year, it seems our councilors will agree that we should pay for it.


  1. Observer, 5. March 2010, 10:48

    RWC2011 provides opportunity for everyone in one way or another if you can open your eyes and see it. Regionally we benefit, nationally we benefit…but hey, how bout you just sit on the side line and bitch and moan.

  2. Karen, 5. March 2010, 13:53

    I hear they’re thinking about allowing flights from the airport to go all through a the night so the the punters here for the Rugby World Cup can make it to the next game venues on time. Will they compensate Wellington businesses for the dodgy work people do the next day after being kept awake all night by this? I thought these kinds of exemptions were only supposed to be for emergencies.

  3. andy foster, 6. March 2010, 9:59

    Let’s get this in context. I’m a football nut (Go the Phoenix !) but RWC is the biggest event we have hosted in NZ – ever, and given the increasing cost of these big events it may be the biggest we ever host. Remember the decision to award the hosting to us (NZ) when the expectation was that Japan would get it ?

    Let’s also get in context the estimated $45 million that RWC will bring into Wellington. That represents more profitable businesses and more people being employed. The amount Wellington City is investing in hosting is really very very modest in comparison with any other major city. We haven’t had to build entirely new stadia or at very least rebuild large sections of them – like Christchurch, Dunedin, Whangarei, and let’s not forget the planning shambles that Auckland’s been.

    Our investment – ignoring the ones which are just altering the timing of what we were doing anyway – I’d estimate to be around $3-4 million, and much of that benefits us all, not just the tournament.
    – more investment in street cleaning (don’t we all benefit from that)
    – new toilets in Courtenay Place (well we know that unfortunately public toilets don’t get well treated by some miscreants – and we all pay for that)
    – some direct event support
    – officer time
    – Sculpture (this seems to be getting people ‘excited’ and talking about ‘a rugby ball’. I can’t claim to being greatly knowledgable about the arts – an ongoing learning process – but what we’ve seen I think most people will really like)
    – World Cup village (let’s get a bit relaxed about the Wharewaka building being used as Wellington’s Party Central for a few weeks – it is a few weeks! And cost to ratepayers $150,000 – You’ve got to put 2 zeroes on and multiply it by a bit to get Auckland’s version’s cost)

    – There are other investments which are really useful for RWC – such as the new artificial turf at Te Whaea – but they are all going to be enjoyed and used by Wellingtonians before and long after RWC and are things we were doing anyway. An example is bringing forward a year the works along Waterloo Quay – as a cyclist I’m quite keen to be able to ride right along the Quay away from traffic (this will in time become part of the Great Harbour Way), and as the Port office park develops the need for an attractive walking space becomes greater. and of course people including on Scoop have often said we need to improve the route between the city and the cruise ships.
    – a few minor things like extending Newtown Park surface.

    I think RWC is an opportunity for us all as a city to enjoy hosting people from all over the world and leave them with a great impression of Wellington and of Wellingtonians. That’s in our best interests if we want to maximise the ongoing benefits to tourism and jobs. The investment that the Council is making in RWC is very modest, and certainly very modest in comparison to the benefits. I’m sure I didn’t hear anyone saying we shouldn’t be hosting matches in Wellington did I ?

    Warmest regards

    Cr Andy Foster
    Wellington City Council

  4. The City is Ours Inc., 6. March 2010, 17:03

    Andy forgets to mention the Indoor Community Sports Centre, which according to Ms. Prendergast will be ready just in time and made available for the rugby teams and training. RWC is the driver for most schemes pushed through by strategy and policy meetings lately and receiving little opposition because they are football nuts.

    When FIFA came to town when the All Whites qualified to go to the World Cup in South Africa, it packed the Westpac Stadium but created revenue only for the hospitality industry.

  5. andy foster, 7. March 2010, 22:46

    City is Ours – Maria you are well off the mark on all counts.

    1 – Yes the Indoor Sports Centre will be ready just in time for the RWC. You might recall Maria (evidently not) that it was me who challenged its location and cost, got it reviewed etc. I’m still absolutely of the view that it’s in the wrong place and in fact the entire model of having everything in one place was wrong. Where was ‘The City is Ours’ during that discussion over many months ? However once that review was complete and Council had confirmed the Cobham Park site for the Sports Centre, the die was cast – there is no point in seeking to revisit it. Oh and just bear in mind Maria that the concept of the indoor sports centre began in 2000, several years before New Zealand was even awarded the RWC 2011 hosting rights….. What we are doing in Wellington – unlike other centres – is using assets that we already had, or were already underway for other purposes than RWC.

    2 – You are also wrong about the focus of Strategy and Policy papers. Including the papers distributed for next week’s SPC meeting, we have had 18 papers over 3 meetings. Not one of those 18 has been about RWC. In the Annual Plan discussions last week, of 26 new initiatives proposed just 3 were purely about RWC and just 4 others were things we were doing anyway and have brought forward, or have changed the amount spent (street cleaning). 19 of the 26 had nothing to do with RWC.

    3 – I can assure you that you are also wrong about issues being pushed through because people are ‘football nuts’ – especially given that they aren’t even about rugby let alone about football (soccer) !

    4 – You are right that the primary beneficiary $$ wise of big sporting events like the All Whites – Bahrain game is the hospitality (and retail) industry. But where would we be if our hospitality and retail industries were in poor shape ? A lot less jobs, a much quieter – less attractive central city. Let’s also not forget that the business sector still pays close to 50% of the rates covering a host of the services we enjoy as residents, despite representing only approx 20% of the city’s total property value. We go through every service Council provides and determine the extent user pays is appropriate, and the sectors that benefit (residential/commercial). The residual goes on the ‘general rate.’ The calculation is that the business sector is subsiding us residents still by over $30 million per annum.

    Let’s also wonder what sort of city we’d have if the Council didn’t get behind fantastic events. Some like the All Whites game required very little assistance at all – no marketing – it just sold itself, just like tonight’s fantastic Phoenix match. People are still be talking about how much they enjoyed the All Whites and I expect the same will be true of tonight’s match. Likewise people still remember with pleasure the Lions visit a few years ago, and hopefuly we’ll all make the Rugby World Cup a great memory for Wellingtonians and visitors alike.

    Cr Andy Foster
    Wellington City Council

  6. The City is Ours Inc., 8. March 2010, 20:18

    Yes I remember the concept started in 2000. I was there when Sue Ryall came to present it to council, the same time when I presented the concept for a skatepark in Island Bay. Difference being the skateboard community was told to fundraise and supply free labour, while the Netball Association stood there for 10 years holding up their hands to the ratepayers until they got their way. Our skatepark became a success while we raised funds to get it off the ground with multiple sponsorships and rolled up our sleeves to build the wooden ramp. The project was completed with a $90K contribution from the WCC, thankfully received.

    Where is Sport Wellington in sponsorship of the Indoor Sports Centre? I know Andy opposed it and it is still going in the wrong place being Kilbirnie.