I was really puzzled by the article in the Dom Post in the weekend featuring local architect Angela Foster claiming that Wellington was an “expensive and constipated drain hole that can’t get moving” – and saying, like John Key did a decade ago, that “Wellington was dying”. It appears that she is comparing Wellington to Melbourne – and that we come off very much second best. She is pictured in the article pointing at something on the pavement in Cuba Street, although I’m not sure exactly what that was. Clearly she’s pissed off at how slowly the wheels turn here with Council and LGWM seemingly incapable of making decisions, and maybe also that pigeons are crapping on the pavement. But to claim that Wellington is dying? Be careful of what you say Angela, you are only adding to the problem.
When John Key made his comment back in the heady days of National and the National Roads of Significance, with Stephen Joyce pushing 4 lane highways from Wellington to Auckland and everywhere in between, it was a time long before Covid had hit our shores. Wellington had finished with the excitement of the three Lord of the Rings films, which lead to us having such extravaganzas as Red Carpet film openings down the Courtenay Place and a bevy of stars walking the streets and living amongst us. They were heady times indeed – it was nice to be living in a place where bumping into a famous dwarf in the petrol station (happened to me), an elf in a cafe (also happened to me), or having a hobbit living in your street (yes, also happened to me), was clearly not an unusual event. Those times have past, yes, but those dwarfs, elves and hobbits weren’t the people buying everything up in Cuba Street gift shops. That was just our regular population living their regular everyday lives. The possibility of rubbing shoulders with Hollywood royalty just added to a frisson of excitement that we were at the centre of it all, when really, of course, we’ve always been at the very edge of the complete middle of nowhere.
Angela Foster’s comment comes on the back of a “silly season” story from January that questioned whether Wellington should still be the capital or not, which got a disturbing amount of serious discussion over a question that was unquestionably silly and rather tongue in cheek. But again, be careful of what you wish for – not that it should be taken seriously, but if the function of “capital” was taken away, then that really would be a death knell for Wellington.
Wellington is still, undeniably, being punished by Government for refusing to have a bridge soaring over the Basin Reserve, by having the world’s most drawn out and stagnant roading design process foisted upon us, with the complete ineptitude of Let’s Get Wellington Moving being the stultifying blanket that smothers the capital and makes a complete mockery of its name. I actually went to visit the LGWM office once, pre Covid, and I wandered up to their office in Vivian Street, where – I kid you not – I found that there was not a single person in their office. I stayed for about 10 minutes in case they were all hiding in the toilets, but no heads emerged – it was a complete Marie Celeste but without any ships at all. No cars, no trains, and no humans were present that day, so after wandering around a bit amongst deserted desks, I went away and have never returned. LGWM were also in the paper in the weekend advertising for more staff, yet again, to lead them. I don’t fancy their chances in getting competent staff.
What is interesting, of course, is the comments in Stuff after the article. As usual there are many numbers in the mix, but there are also two angles to the comments – some people agreeing, others saying she is wrong. Personally, I’m on the side of those who still find Wellington a vibrant, invigorating place, like the artist who has put bronze pigeons all over the city – I just love it! But others say things like:
JMY: “I avoid the city at the weekend, over priced parking (if you can find it), unreliable / infrequent / expensive (when not half price) public transport makes it an unattractive option, so we don’t go into the city for a weekend outing much anymore. Sometimes we may go in if it’s to go to a specific store, but I’ll always check for alternatives out of the city first, if we do go in then we try to tie it in with an ‘outing’, but usually that just ends up with a ten minute stroll at the waterfront to see if the kids can spot a stingray, then racing back to the car so we don’t get ticketed – the time constraints mean we don’t spend $$. It’s just too hard to go into wellington, it’s stressful and expensive.”
Bruce Wayne: “Wellington central is a rat race. Can’t even organise a robust route to the airport. Nightlife will continue to decentralise as the smart money moves to cater for cruise ship clientele and other daytime foot traffic.”
JM123: “I used to think its dying…but it’s practically dead. Took the family out last week to Cuba street and went for a walk…..and half of Cubas street shops are for lease..and this is the street we tell people to visit. Restaurants are expensive and we no longer have a “pulse.” Te Papa is the only Jewel in the crown….and that’s no flash enough for everyone. There’s nothing to do.”
sure-you-do: “Opposite things happening in the Hutt. It’s chocka with people. Is the greatest thing ever since the pandemic that more people get to spend more time at home and contributing to their community. As opposed to commuting into a city to a high rise building to sit in meetings all day. Who cares if we lose the CBD? All those cafes could easily do a roaring trade elsewhere in the city. And let’s face it. That’s all the cbd was. Cafes and restaurants”
TheAnswer: “Stop complaining with ‘it’s Labour’s fault’ and ‘it’s National’s fault’. They’re both to blame. We’ve alternated from one mayor backing one side or the other and most of the problems are a local government issue. Period. All the complaints are valid. New buildings built have nothing amazing about them. A kid with lego bricks could design something better. Look at Frank Kitts Park. First up, it’s still not finished, and besides, it’s likely to be rubbish. Compare it to the Margaret Mahy one in Chch, or even just the local on in Takapuna. Kids actually go to play at these ones. Look at our architecture. Point out one building that’s looks amazing? The new convention centre opposite Te Papa wants people to come… but where can you even park if they’ve taken those away too. I love Wellington. I always will. But I’m looking to leave after 40+ years.”
Then again, there are other comments like:
Daddy Royale: “Wellington is a great place to live. I work as a policy advisor and the 2 days I come to work at the office in town, I ride my e-bike. I’m right behind Tory and her Green vision for our city. We need more cycleways. During my gap year I spent a weekend in Copenhagen – it was a wonderful experience. Hopefully the Council will build a cycleway from my parent’s villa in Kelburn to Thorndon!”
What do you think? Dying? Dead? or Divine?
But was Daddy Royale real or tongue in cheek? I thought the latter.
Pretty hard to tell if any comment on Stuff is real, or tongue in cheek. There seems to be a MacDonald’s / Tarantino reference in there as well, somehow, with the name.
Daddy Royale, although taking the piss, is getting his wish. Will it get Wellington moving though? Nope. I expect nothing will until there’s a better PT system, nothing else will work.
Chico – you’re somewhere in the middle of town I think – is it dying down there? Or just business as usual?
JMY’s comment is a bit at loggerheads with itself.
Over-priced parking, but can’t find any? Not being able to find any parking is the result of being under-priced, darlink!
I had the misfortune to park on the waterfront in the Wilson-Parking-controlled car park below the TSB Events centre recently, one Sunday afternoon. I was only 10 minutes – it cost me $12 (minim half an hour). A man coming in after me had parked for just over an hour – ie 3 x half hour sections – cost him $36 for the privilege of parking in Wellington for a cup of coffee at Mojos. Needless to say, neither of us will ever be coming into Wellington to park again. What a fucking rip-off that bloody Wilson Parking is !!!
Oh agreed. TSB is only there to relieve suckers like us of large wads of our money.
Once, I went in there, couldn’t find a park, and had to pay the minimum fee just to exit. The bloody cheek!
Yeah you do that only once. I would have thought that everyone knows to never casually park in any private car parks.
Makes you wonder about their business model. But often they sell monthly leases, and for some weird reason many have an all day tariff (euphemistically called an ‘early bird rate’) on working days that costs less than an hour of parking in weekends.
It seems ripping off the occasional unsuspecting sucker is a better business model than selling parking in a normal way in weekends.
My view is that Wellington is not that much worse than it was 10/15/20 years ago, Lots of the main commentators are more reflecting the fact that they have got old and their glory days are past (maybe that’s just me)! It’s not like the pigeons are new.
BUT, both Auckland and Christchurch have got significantly better over that time and not much has happened in Wellington. And knocking out most of Civic Square plus Reading has been quite a blow. The Kaikoura quake was a much bigger and slow moving blow to Wellington than I think is given credit.
I’ve been having an argument / discussion all day with a colleague, over whether Auckland is a bigger shithole than Wellington at present. She says she thought Auckland was bright and shiny compared with here, but last time I was up there in Auckland, it was crapola city to me. Beggars all the way up Queen St, entire parts of the city boarded up (OK, that was due to the CRL being dug), and still they have their infernal traffic jams all the time. Took well over an hour to drive from CBD to the Airport, queues of traffic sitting fuming all the way. Its a disaster-case to me. I much prefer Wellington’s mini-jams, and if the traffic is too much, we can always just get out of the taxi and walk. Auckland – without a car of some sort, you’re toast.
Dying but not dead!
My goal is not to put the nail in the coffin, rather to spark debate, and really ‘get things moving’. I love Wellington and I want it to thrive, but look above the canpy height and much of the city is held together by rust and borer holding hands! With much of the building stock being owned by individuals we need a way forward that can facilitate the repairs needed to bring back the sparkle, along with an urban strategy that encourages people back to the city after covid. Attempts to provide options through offical channels failed so it was suggested I ruffle feathers through the media! Fingers crossed it worked!
I find that sometimes these things can come back and bite you in the bum… is there some reason why you are pictured pointing to pretty piles of pigeon poo on the pavement, aside from alliteration?
Unfortunately the media didn’t really pick up that angle! It felt more just like a reheat of a generic argument that has been going on for a while, and many of the other voices quoted mainly want cheaper onstreet parking.
Maybe submit a piece to Eye of the Fish outlining solutions. I’d read it!
For what it’s worth, that Takapuna carparking building cost council a tonne of money and is barely used.
I made a country bumpkin visit to Wellington yesterday – admittedly an apocryphal good day – and thought it was looking rather swell. The waterfront drive from the station to Te Papa (my route of necessity) was quite nicely balanced – the cluster of newish midi-towers in the first cityside block and the maturing harbourside building and planting seemed just about right to me and the whole thing rolled on between Edwardian legacy and compact modern. Whatever Lindsay Shelton’s fears, I got a series of satisfying connections with the water – even from a car. And the Convention Centre might take a bit of getting used to, but it can already teach Te Papa a thing or two about visual cohesion and street presence.
Whenever denizens feel down about it, I always point out that if they were Australian, the chances are they would be living in Canberra.
That DomPost article sure baited a whoooooooole lot of clicks, didn’t it!
Is it true that Wayne Brown’s a Strathmore boy from way back?
John Key conveniently glossed over his own role in contributing to the city’s malaise by way of public sector austerity. And, of course, the sell-off of social housing without replenishing it, which is a nationwide issue but especially affects Wellington due to the limited space.
That said, the biggest factor was likely the Kaikoura quakes that red-stickered even recent buildings, including Courtenay Central & the Public Library. Slightly older buildings managed to withstand it, which speaks for the fact that they were likely Ministry of Works-engineered & constructed.
The ripples from the Kaikoura earthquake continue to be felt far and wide and not just by recent buildings,
there are a number of “Ministry of Works” era buildings that are “earthquake prone” or have required remediation
a Short list includes
– The Met Office building,
– The Press Gallery Annex of the Beehive
– The Wellington Girls College Tower block (likely Wellington boys too!)
– NZ Post House ( Now 7 waterloo quay)
There is a strong theory that anyone who comments on Stuff is self-selecting for Facebook types – not exactly uplifting and magnanimous, more weaselly self-interested nosy I’m-all-right-Jack types
Known to drive Keas now that drug dealers favour Audis, of course 4WD but never go offroad
Live in Ngaio but put their address as Khandallah
You know the type
Consequently, upstanding fish may reasonably ignore their witterings and put their best fin forward
I think that your previous posts are on to the best formula for this town – route the through traffic underground or partial cut n cover as much as possible, pedestrianise Lambton/Willis, buses and delivery vehicles only along the quays and red-sticker with teeth some EQ prone places and get em down – a local land tax will move that one forward
Tax land banking would help
Have at it, kids
Ah yes, North Khandallah darling. :D
Bang on 60.
Seems like it is not just Nemo who is getting irritated with people calling Wellington dead or dying. Even the NZ Herald has kept to the defence of the capital, with their columnist Georgina stating that:
“I’m sick of people dragging up John Key’s comment from 2013 that Wellington is “dying” and using it to justify an onslaught of hot-takes about how the capital’s golden age is over. It’s a stale line – uttered a decade ago – that prompts a wave of pointless nostalgia. Yes, the late nineties and early 2000s were great but we can’t leverage that forever.
There’s actually a whole new generation of Wellingtonians who want to have their own golden age that looks different to the era people are so fond of reminding us is over. Put yourself in my shoes, my memory of that era was as an 8-year-old living in Johnsonville. My mum didn’t let me watch Lord of the Rings until I was much older and I distinctly remember a trip to Cuba St where Blanket Man scared the living daylights out of me. Fast-forward to the present day and I’m now an almost 30-year-old living in the eastern suburbs.
I am within walking distance of Miramar peninsula’s beautiful coastline. There are white sandy beaches like Worser and cute little hidden bays at Karaka. There are fabulous places to meet friends for brunch like Polo or The Larder where you can find a delicious cheese soufflé (you’re welcome!). There are loads of great op-shops and you can stop off for some of the best coffee in town at Swimsuit Cafe owned by Tait Burge, who is not yet 30 and has managed to open three cafes.
The city is a short bus ride away and the number 2 line is fully electric. I hardly ever need to drive my car. The precinct around Ghuznee St is my nightlife spot. The old favourites like Meow and San Fran still delight with groovy live music. Puffin or Ascot are great little places off the beaten track for a glass of chilled red. My experience with eating out lately is that you can’t get a table unless you book well in advance. I’m not exaggerating when I say that area is humming at night.
You always hear about the doom and gloom of the hospitality scene but did you hear that Chaat Street is so successful it’s moving to bigger premises in Wellington and has expanded to Auckland? Or that Damascus has moved into a permanent venue on Tory St? I never tire of the walk around the city’s waterfront- whether it’s the thrill of a sharp southerly whipping across my face or the joy of Wellington on a good day.
The green hills that embrace the city are filled with walking tracks for all levels. Kākā and tūī have started to spill over into suburban areas from our ecosanctuary Zealandia, which is something to be immensely proud of. I love visiting other parts of the country, but I never return to Wellington thinking I want to pack up and leave. I can honestly say that if I won Lotto, I would want to live in the suburb where I already reside. I can’t imagine dealing with Auckland’s traffic. The city of sails also feels a bit flashy to me between the labels and places “to be seen” for dinner.
Wellington is more relaxed, where people are free to be themselves, and where you’re more likely to find conversations about politics than the latest trends. In case you were wondering, no, I do not live under a rock. I am aware of the bus cancellations, the broken pipes, people feeling unsafe in the city, and the sky-high house prices. These problems would have been bubbling away in Wellington’s so-called golden era and were neglected for future generations to deal with. Instead of pining for a different time, maybe people could put their energy into reimagining the next chapter of Wellington.
Some solutions are on the way like better wages for bus drivers and changes to immigration settings, our $7.4b transport plan, pulling the planning levers for more houses, and investing properly in our pipes. None of these will act as a silver bullet and many of them are going to be painful, but that’s usually the way to meaningful change. There are some things to look forward to more imminently like the new convention centre opening in June, the Town Hall reopening in 2025, and the re-vamped central library opening in 2026.
Other projects like the boardwalk on Dixon St and parklets for businesses have transformed one area of the central city and I always get a kick out of people enjoying the new outdoor dining they provide. Unlike my Newstalk ZB colleague Kate Hawkesby who said last week she wanted to love Auckland but she was running out of puff, I have endless energy for the city I love.
So please, can we stop talking about how Wellington is dying? It’s a tiresome narrative and it’s wrong.”