6 Nov 2014

Wellington convention centre approved

7:32 am on 6 November 2014

Wellington councillors have approved a $100 million convention centre near Wellington's waterfront.

At a meeting last night councillors voted 13 to two to allow local developer Mark Dunajtschik to build the venue as part of a five-star Hilton hotel near the city's waterfront.

An artist's impression of the convention centre and hotel complex.

An artist's impression of the convention centre and hotel complex. Photo: SUPPLIED / HBO+EMBT

The 4400 metre convention centre and the hotel would sit opposite the national museum, Te Papa.

The council will lease the convention centre attached to the hotel for 20 years for $2.1 million a year, taking any profits.

Council economic growth committee chair Jo Coughlan said the venue would add nearly $29 million a year to the local economy and create 200 full-time jobs.

Deputy mayor Justin Lester said the decision showed Wellington was well and truly alive.

"Someone once said Wellington is dying and we don't know how to turn it around.

"Tonight's decision, however, shows that Wellington City Council does know how to turn it around but most importantly we're also putting a stake in the ground and doing something about it."

Councillor Simon Marsh said a new venue, without a projected $55 million bill payable by the council, was too good to pass up.

"This is a gift horse in some ways and stupidity is just looking a gift horse in the mouth."

One of the council's main reasons for wanting the convention centre was that similar venues were already being planned in Auckland, Christchurch and Queenstown.

The capital's exisiting convention venues generated $146 million a year, but once other cities' centres were operating the council projected that would fall by nearly 20 percent.

Councillor Andy Foster said that would mean the city was left behind.

"Do we even want to be in the race? And if we don't support this then effectively we're saying white flag, we're not in this race," he said.

"We will concede all that activity, all that revenue, all those jobs, to the other parts of New Zealand.

Two councillors - Helene Ritchie and Sarah Free - voted against the proposal.

Ms Free said she thought it was too soon to green-light the project.

"It comes down solely to the effect on rates and the fact that I don't think for the significance of this decision that consultation's actually been sufficient," she said.

Developer Mark Dunajtschik said his sights now turned to the more technical aspects of building the convention centre.

"We have to really progress with the design of the structure, and of course negotiate with the builder. So there's many things to be addressed which were held up until we knew whether we had the go ahead or not."

Ms Coughlan said rates rises would be minimal at about $12 a year on a property worth $500,000. She hoped building would begin early next year.

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