Com­plex could host mega ex­hi­bi­tions

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - Damian Ge­orge damian.ge­[email protected]

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.

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