Passing along the waterfront last night, on a wettish, cold, windy Wednesday evening, I was bemused to find Shed 5 packed to the gills with large men in suits – but then I remembered – of course – the Property Council of New Zealand is in town for their annual conference. The theme for this year is Building Succesful Cities, and so its interesting to see who they have speaking, and what they have planned to excite those giants of the NZ property owning world.
Wednesday started off with a range of corporate activities such as clay bird shooting, rifle shooting, golf, archery, sheep vs people, and axe throwing, followed up by a visit to the BNZ, a site tour of the new Chews Lane, cocktails at the Meridian Building, and then dinner at Shed 5. Personally, I would love to see the property moguls emulating sheep-dogs, but am somewhat wary of the fact that they’re being instructed in axe throwing (note to self: never combine axe-throwing with dwarf-throwing – it could get messy).
Thursday starts off with a welcome from Mayor Kerry Prendergast, and then speeches from Bob Carr (Aussie ex-premier), Roger Douglas (ex-labour MP, now ACT comeback act), Jim McClay (ex-Attorney General), Bill English (ex-leader of the National Party), and then a session on Green Buildings, all interspersed with copious food and drink of course. Apart from the last session, I’d say that’s a fairly fervently Right-Wing session stacked up there, although you could also argue that they’re all just a bunch of failed politicians. Not much room for women or left-leaning politics in there! Which of course is a fairly bluntly obvious direction change from our current political scene.
Friday appears to be more well-rounded, not just in the paunches of the attendees, but also in the programme – talks and discussions on Battling Red Tape, Urban Strategy, Creation of Vibrant Cities etc, with speakers including Stuart Niven (ex-WCC Urban Planner, now head of planning in Melbourne), Ernst Zolner (current, but soon to be ex-WCC Urban Planner), Ian Pike (Wellington Waterfront), Mark McGuiness (Willis Bond), and to me, somewhat bizarrely, Wayne Brown (currently Mayor of the Far North Council, and long-time thorn-in-the-side of Health Boards everywhere), and goodness me, a woman: Sue Simons (Partner at Ellis Gould). While Wayne and Sue (and others) will be battling Red Tape, especially discussing Auckland’s current messy ‘governance’, Niven, Pike, Zolner and others will be discussing how to make a vibrant city – of which of course Wellington is the best example around.
As far as I can tell, no architects have been invited to talk – what would they know about design anyway – but certainly Niven and Zolner have been successful in creating the right atmosphere for Wellington City to flourish, as well as Pike being the main force behind the redevelopment of Wellington’s waterfront into the enjoyable playground of spaces it is today. Let’s hope that Auckland business leaders and property developers start to take notice about the steps you need to take to turn a city around, into a place where you might want to go for a walk on a wettish, cold, windy Wednesday evening.