Home' The Wellingtonian : September 29th 2011 Contents 10 THE WELLINGTONIAN, SEPTEMBER 29, 2011
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Lack of planning
When the Karori Wildlife
Sanctuary was being transformed
into Zealandia, many called for
greater transparency and
Those people were labelled
doomsayers, more concerned with
portraying Wellington in a
negative light than focusing on
To keep the transformation on
track, Zealandia went cap-in-hand
to the city council for a handout.
Now, with a revised budget it
appears to want a substantial
Yet again, the ratepayers are to
be treated as a cash cow, a never-
ending supply of money to feed
those who see the rates as an easy
way to fund their own whims.
Those involved in this latest
fiasco should be turned out, never
allowed to be involved in any
exercise that involves anything to
do with council, or ratepayers
money. Time and again, we see
the same old familiar faces with
their snouts in the trough.
When the visitors centre at
Zealandia was built, no-one
heeded the concerns over the price
One has only to go past
Wellington Zoo on a Wednesday
when they hold their $5 days to
know that if it s affordable, people
A salutary lesson for those
One question: was there
ever a Plan B if things went
awry? Business 101 suggests
you build a contingency plan,
but that would have been too
simplistic. PETER KENNEDY
Zealandia s achievements
conservation successes, local
visitor numbers above
forecast, 44 per cent increase
in visitors, 91 per cent visitor
satisfaction, and 66 per cent
increase in visitor and
Your editorial (September
22) highlighted that overall
visitor numbers are below
forecast, but did not explain
that these forecasts, the
Visitors Centre, and all
prices, were based on reports
by external experts, and reviewed
and validated by their peers.
None of those people, in 2006,
foresaw the global financial
downturn, and Christchurch
Of course, anyone is welcome to
view native birds at the Botanic
Garden or Otari-Wilton bush
reserve, both 100 per cent
subsidised by Wellington rates,
and populated during the day by
birds that spend the night safely
It has been suggested that
Wellington Zoo management
could also run Zealandia.
That option can be considered --
remembering that the zoo
received a $15 million investment,
and gets more than $2m in
subsidies each year.
A robust debate is needed.
Make the glass
Your editorial presented a glass
half empty view of Zealandia,
bemoaning its failure to achieve
the forecast visitor numbers since
the new visitor centre opened.
What about seeing the glass
In Zealandia we have a unique
It is the beginning of a long-
term project and, although small
miracles happen in there every
day, we should not expect short-
term commercial miracles.
Even though, according to the
annual report, visitor numbers
have increased by 44 per cent (a
figure strangely overlooked by the
press), Zealandia has so much
more to offer than being just
another visitor attraction.
First, it is the gradual
restoration of a small part of the
land for our dispossessed wildlife.
Already in Wellington there is
daily evidence that they are
thriving in this safe house we
have created for them.
Ten years ago, who ever saw a
tui on Lambton Quay? Who had
even heard the call of the
saddleback and hihi, other than
recordings on National Radio?
Second, it is an accessible place
for research of our wildlife -- birds,
fish, insects and reptiles. Many
people may not know about this
important function of Zealandia .
Third, in supporting Zealandia
the city is backing something
unique that has the potential to
increase Wellington s standing all
over the world.
Compare this with
unquestioned millions paid for
sports facilities for a one-off
tournament like the Rugby World
Cup. Much incorrect information
has been appearing. For example,
the claim that entrance prices are
The entry price to go into the
valley has increased from $15 to
$18.50. The $28.50 covers entry
for those who want to visit the
exhibition as well.
show some support
Something that your Editorial on
Zealandia (Sept 22) doesn t
mention is the fact that the 89,643
visitors in the year to 30/6/11
represented a 44 per cent increase
over the previous year.
A growth rate it s unlikely that
any other visitor attraction in
New Zealand achieved in the
current economic climate. Visitors
to Zealandia also give it a 91
percent satisfaction rating.
What s needed is for
Wellingtonians to support
Why is it that people are happy
to spend hundreds of dollars to
attend a rugby game, from which
they receive no lasting benefit, but
complain about having to spend a
fraction of that amount to visit
Zealandia, from which they will
gain a life-long knowledge of the
evolution and recent human-
caused decimation of New
Zealand s native flora and fauna?
Before criticising Zealandia s
pricing, Wellingtonians need to
compare the cost of visiting the
only nearby equivalent attraction
-- where endangered native
species can be viewed in the wild,
rather than in cages -- which is
Kapiti Island. ($65 for boat trip &
$11 for DOC permit) When viewed
in this context, Zealandia is
actually good value for money.
How to cross
I refer to Ken Daniels letter
(September 22) regarding which
way to look when preparing to
cross the road.
We were told to look left first to
check the traffic on the far side of
the road, then if clear look right.
If clear a quick check to the left
and if still OK then proceed to
The news coming from
Downstage this month
has been grim.
Wellington prides itself on
being the arts capital of New
Zealand, and Downstage, the
theatre in the country, is a big
player in that scene.
But now Downstage, strug-
gling financially, has cancelled
shows from October to next
April. Three fulltime staff
members will lose their jobs.
Up to 19 artists and two
playwrights will be affected
financially by the cuts, which
begin with the postponement of
The Intricate Art of Actually
Downstage was established
47 years ago. The founders --
actors Peter Bland, Tim Elliott
and Martyn Sanderson, and
restaurateur Harry Seresin --
met at the Wellington Public
Library on May 15, 1964, and
laid out plans for Sanderson s
vision of a small professional
company performing challeng-
ing works in an intimate venue.
Since those far-off days,
Downstage has become part of
the Wellington landscape. The
range of actors, writers and
directors who have worked
there is incredible.
The theatre is still on the
same site as where it began, in
the Hannah Playhouse at the
bottom of Cambridge Tce.
However, in 1973 it moved to
the ground floor and into a
refurbished venue that seats
about 250 people.
While the new theatre was
being built, Downstage tempor-
arily occupied the Star Boating
Club s premises.
Life has never been easy for
Downstage and over the years
it has had to reinvent itself sev-
eral times. The latest was in
2009, when Hilary Beaton took
over as chief executive.
Back Downstage, a philan-
thropic organisation that
tapped into Wellingtonians
goodwill towards the theatre,
was set up.
And Beaton introduced
Soundstage, monthly music
sessions that brought a new
audience to Downstage. The
hope was that there would be a
gradual crossover between
music and theatre lovers, and
that has happened to a degree.
Things looked more promis-
ing, but lower audience
numbers over the past two
years have hurt.
Ironically, Downstage suffers
from the frenetic activity in the
Wellington arts scene.
The vast range of festivals on
offer in Wellington -- from the
International Film Festival, to
the International Arts Festival,
to WearableArt, to Sevens
rugby -- all place demands on a
population that is not very big
to begin with.
When smaller festivals, such
as Chocolate, Wellington On A
Plate and Out Takes, are added
to the mix, it can be seen that
Wellingtonians looking for
entertainment with a difference
are already well served.
It s not as if Downstage has
the theatre market to itself.
Circa, Bats and Gryphon, plus
the various repertory theatres,
all draw good audiences.
What s to happen?
Downstage keeps its ticket
prices very reasonable and
there can hardly be any quib-
bling about the standard of the
shows it puts on.
It s time that the Wellington
arts scene became more co-
ordinated. Perhaps it needs to
be put under the control of one
funding organisation, with
more focus on business, mar-
keting and export plans.
While it s obvious that the
recession has hit audience
numbers, that may merely have
highlighted a more deep-seated
problem concerning the funding
of Wellington theatres.
The situation needs to be
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