Complex could host mega exhibitions
Star Wars, Avatar, Vikings, and Marvel exhibitions could be among those to make their way to Wellington, if a proposed new convention centre and exhibition space is given the green light.
Wellington looks set to kick on with plans to build a $179 million convention centre on the city’s waterfront, with Te Papa exhibitions to replace the failed bid for Sir Peter Jackson’s movie museum.
The joint venture between Jackson and Wellington City Council fell over earlier this year, forcing the council to come up with a Plan B.
Plans revealed yesterday show the three-storey complex will be much the same as the $180m one initially proposed, but with a smaller ground floor space to house a commercial exhibition centre in place of Jackson’s movie museum.
Mayor Justin Lester said the convention centre was not Plan B to the movie museum but had ‘‘become Plan A’’. He said it was planned in 2013 and when it was found the movie museum would not work, the council had reverted to the original plan because it wanted to proceed with certainty.
He was throwing his full support behind the project, and he said the business case for a large convention centre was strong.
‘‘We need to encourage tourists and conference visitors to our city and will benefit from the jobs it will create.’’
Lester said the convention industry in Wellington was worth $240m a year and Wellington was missing out on the Australasian and Asian markets. ‘‘We are missing out on big conventions because we don’t have the appropriate space.
‘‘This project has been more than five years in the making and what it now needs is a favourable decision from council.’’
He said BERL (Business and Economic Research Ltd) had estimated the convention centre would contribute $44.8m a year to Wellington’s GDP, and support 554 new jobs.
Its construction would add $76.4m million to GDP and support 864 jobs for its duration.
The council hoped the paid exhibitions, which could showcase existing overseas displays such as Star Wars, Marvel, Game of Thrones, and Harry Potter, would pull in more than 270,000 visitors a year.
The 18,000-square-metre complex would be located on council land outside Te Papa, between Cable and Wakefield streets.
It is expected to cost ratepayers $154m, with the council also banking on $25m of government funding. Ongoing operating costs were expected to cost $45.6m over 10 years.
A council spokesperson said if the proposal was signed off, the centre could open in late 2022, with construction potentially starting in August.
The ground floor would house the exhibition hall, public walkways, and a cafe, with the convention centre to take up the top two levels.
It’s also hoped the complex will regenerate the area and improve links between the museum and waterfront.
Te Papa spokeswoman Kate Camp said the museum welcomed new additions to the waterfront precinct that provided new opportunities for the capital and its visitors. ‘‘We look forward to continuing our close connection with the council and all our creative neighbours in Wellington.’’
A business case for the proposal said combining the exhibition and convention centres would make efficient use of the ‘‘scarce downtown space’’.
The centre would be able to host large, multi-day conventions for up to 1500 people.
The building design might change slightly but would retain the existing concept based on the head of Maui’s fish: Te Upoko o te Ika.
Wellington Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Milford said he supported the proposal ‘‘in principle’’ but the chamber had not yet had a chance to assess the numbers in detail.
‘‘We know our conference facilities are under a lot of pressure for a raft of reasons, but the question is: is the building the right size, does it have the right facilities, is it cost-effective?’’
The council’s city strategy committee will vote on the proposal on Thursday.