Wellington Scoop

The airport is determined to have its Wellywood sign – but after the election

Remember the Wellywood controversy? It was a lively issue six months ago, but it’s no longer making headlines. Has the airport company recognised that the sign was a bad idea? Has it decided it should stick to running an airport? Unfortunately, no.

The company is still determined to disfigure the Wellington landscape with a large sign which, it believes, will “make an instantly recognisable link between Wellington and the global film industry”. In a letter dated 10 September, Wellington Airport Ltd’s airport planner Mike Brown says the company will “be moving ahead with our plans to build a sign that fulfills these aims later in the year”.

He refers to “our Wellywood sign” and writes: “We are proud to share the Miramar Peninsula with such a wealth of talent and want to celebrate our spectacularly successful film industry.”

The letter was written to the Wellington Civic Trust which had asked the airport company not to go ahead with any sign until the public had been fully consulted. But the airport company believes that its Facebook page is sufficient for public discussion. It sees “no need to go ahead with a separate meeting.”

The Civic Trust has also written to Garry Poole, the City Council’s Chief Executive, pointing out the apparent conflict between provisions in the district plan and the decision to grant a resource consent. It sent the letter in June. Mr Poole has not replied.

The 98m2 size of the sign – which has been permitted under a resource consent granted by the city council run by Mr Poole – is twelve times the maximum specified in the district plan. It also conflicts with the plan provision that any sign “located on Rongotai Ridge respect the important cultural and natural qualities of this landform.” .

A ‘Wellywood ‘ sign may not now seem to the airport board quite as witty as once it did, particularly as the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce saw it not as an affectionate gesture but as a violation of its trademark. The airport company seems anxious not to annoy Hollywood. It seems less concerned about annoying people in Wellington.

We won’t know the wording of the huge message that the airport is planning to build on this prominent ridge until after the elections. Which is understandable from the point of view of the company and the Mayor (who has supported the airport throughout). They wouldn’t want a debate on the unpopular sign to become an election issue.

In May: the airport had ten ideas for its sign.

In March: Councilors not told about Wellywood sign

Cliched and dreadful idea


  1. Ben, 17. September 2010, 8:18

    I’m just glad the prevailing winds in Wellington come from the north. Hopefully this will mean less embarrassment when friends and family fly in for a visit.

  2. Mike Mellor, 17. September 2010, 8:36

    I think that the sign should be an election issue, both in its own right and as an example of the sort of project that current council leadership has pursued at great expense without thinking through all the consequences. These examples include the Hilton Hotel, the Marine Education Centre and moving the Free Ambulance building (all thrown out by the Environment Court for reasons that should have been clear to WCC), converting the Johnsonville Line to a busway (nobody asked the owners of the line what they thought of the idea) and the V8 car race, as well as the Wellywood sign.

    Most recently the Indoor Community Sports Centre proposal didn’t follow the council’s own rules with respect to traffic, transport and impact on the local community – that’s why I took the council to court. I got some improvements, but it’s still a worry and a significant local and regional issue.

    The city council needs fresh faces to bring some sanity and proper process to the way it handles major projects. Done properly, they’re a major asset: otherwise, all they do is benefit the legal profession. Congratulations to the community groups and individuals that have stood up for their communities, and I look forward to their not having to waste their time, money and energies fighting city hall in the courts.

    Mike Mellor
    Independent candidate for WCC Eastern Ward

  3. the City is Ours, 17. September 2010, 13:38

    You forgot Manners Mall which will effect everyone. No wonder this too has been delayed till after the elections.

  4. Polly, 17. September 2010, 16:53

    Mike for Mayor! Wish he was in my electorate…..

  5. peter brooks, 18. September 2010, 22:37

    Mike is right, this should be an election issue. But bigger issues are involved than the size of the Wellywood sign. The resource consent was granted by officers even though the decision flew in the face of any rational reading of the relevant provisions of the District Plan.
    Recently Lindsay Shelton was told by a council officer that he might or might not get a reply to his question on the Wharewaka depending on whether or not the relevant planner had more important things to do. The Trust has not had a reply to its letter about the sign, so it seems that Mr Poole has more important things to do.
    Who runs this show – the elected representatives or the officers?
    It would be good if had an answer from each of our mayoral candidates before we vote – after all we might have more important things to do too.

  6. Rob, 20. September 2010, 7:21

    “Wellywood” remains an unimaginitive, generic and frankly embarrassing idea for a sign. If anything, just writing “Wellington” would be better.

  7. Jack Ruben, 20. September 2010, 8:34

    Peter Brooks asks “Who runs this show” (the Council) – “the elected representatives or the officers”? Of course it should be the councillors who set the policy in accordance with the wishes of the electors, and the officers who implement it. But this not always happening because few if any of the councillors, and especially the mayor, have ever had ‘line-management” experience in an organisation of any size, so the officers are left to interpret what the ratepayers want, – or even some other agenda.
    Voters also need to scrutinise the past administrative and financial record of all candidates before they vote for them. Too much money and irrevocable damage to the environment is at stake to leave it to amateurs or proven failures. Cliches every 3 years at election time are not sufficient proof of ability to be a councillor.

  8. Jack Yan, 20. September 2010, 11:37

    What a terrible idea. As bad now as it was then. Copying is hardly a way to show how original Wellington is, and we’re going to come up against the same legal issues now as we did in March. I’m going to have another crack at nipping this in the bud and save us a few hundred thousand (we’re still paying for it through our part-ownership of the Airport). This is an affront to what Wellington is, in my view.

  9. Pauline Swann, 20. September 2010, 15:54

    Like Peter Brooks, I too have been on the Civic Trust Board and now Waterfront Watch. Peter will recall the letter the Mayor’s husband wrote to the Ministry for the Environment dated 31st October 2006, quoting himself as a member of the Civic Trust since 1981. I quote from the third paragraph: “paramount in our thinking was that we would not become objectors to RMA applications. That road always leads, in the long term, to oblivion and irrelevance. Of equal long term danger to Civic Trust is its association, in this objection (Hilton Hotel), with Waterfront Watch. The latter group represents all that is negative and damaging to our fine city.” (Funny but our membership and donations do not reflect that)

    In the 5th paragraph he asked the Ministry not to approve funding to the Civic Trust to assist its appeal against the proposed Hilton Hotel. As this request failed, perhaps this is one of the reasons the Trust have not had any response to their letter re the “Wellywood” sign.

  10. Celia WB, 22. September 2010, 0:01

    The Hollywood sign was original in LA in 1923. “Wellywood” is an amusing reference and/or a word to indicate Wellington’s film success, due in great part to Weta Digital and Weta Workshops and Park Road Post. That levity would be lost by a day-in day-out physical representation on the hill in Miramar. The resource consent could have been denied due to it being over-size, I believe. While a smaller sign would be legally acceptable, it’s still bad taste!

    I don’t see much point in having any word-sign here – certainly not “Wellington” since one hopes people know they have arrived here, unless diverted from Palmerston North in which case they should consider themselves lucky.

  11. Hans, 3. October 2010, 1:20

    I’m VERY surprised this sign hasn’t been an election issue. I assumed it had been canned because of the fact that it wasn’t mentioned by any of the candidates. It really serves as a symbol of what is wrong with the stale (and slightly dodgy) Prendergast era. What a disaster!