Boost for NZ as Wellington centre gets green light

New Zealand’s status as a destination for business events has been bolstered after city leaders gave the green light for a ‘sinewy’ new convention centre in Wellington.

Building work on the Wellington Conference and Exhibition Centre (WCEC), which will have 10,000sqm of convention space and a 1,650sqm exhibition hall, is due to start next year.

Tourism New Zealand’s global business events manager, Anna Fennessy, said the development of a large-scale conference venue was ‘hugely’ significant for Wellington.

“International business events deliver a range of benefits beyond the significant economic contributions they provide to the local economy,” she said. “They have the potential to generate long-lasting positive social change in our communities through the expert knowledge delegates bring with them and they allow Kiwis to share their expertise and knowledge too. The introduction of a large-scale conference venue for Wellington means these benefits will be absorbed across the region for years to come.”

David Perks, from the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, said the facility would mean Wellington was able to compete with rival destinations in the region.

“It will put us on an equal footing with Auckland and Christchurch who both have conference venues under construction, and the Australian market where all major cities have purpose-built convention facilities,” he said.

The business events market is currently worth around AU$240 million to the city and those who made the case for WCEC said it would host 111 new events every year and deliver 150,000 more ‘delegate days’ for the city, boosting city coffers by around AU$45m.

The WCEC was designed by Wellington-based Studio Pacific Architecture.

Principal architect Daryl Calder said the design draws its inspiration from Wellington’s harbour, its famed wild weather, hilly landscape and Maori mythology, particularly Te Ūpoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui (Maui’s head of the fish).

“The building’s glass cladding emphasises the shimmering, sinewy skin which changes in transparency throughout the day as it reflects Wellington’s variable weather. What also makes it a distinctly Wellington building is the use of raw and natural earthy tones, materials and colours throughout. It’s a building designed for Wellington that celebrates its location and context,” he said.