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.

Foster and some bird poo in Cuba Street

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.

Rachel Taulelei’s pigeon, sculpted by Jonathan Campbell

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.

The mysterious over-sized pigeons of yesteryear have flown the coop

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.

The only good pigeon is a bronze pigeon

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.”

One of the city residents who are not leaving…

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?