More koha please, folks – the costs of this bloody boat shed are starting to climb

And if you take out the waka, we can get more party-goers in...

Alf has a sneaking admiration, of sorts, for the gall of the Wellington City Council and its great capacity for screwing its ratepayers despite their howls of protest.

A few weeks ago it was announcing proposals to extend the liquor ban it has imposed in public places in the inner city.

But on the other hand, it is planning to use public money for Rugby World Cup festivities in a posh Maori boat shed that it is helping to build.

Liquor-free festivities? Yeah, right.

The festivities might be so huge, according to one caustic account at Scoop, that the bloody waka might have to be moved out.

Wellington’s new $11million wharewaka on Taranaki Wharf was supposed to be “a permanent expression of Maori art and culture.” But for six weeks next year it’s to be downgraded to become a place for parties and the sale of souvenirs.

“More than 1200 partygoers will be able to pack into the wharewaka,” reports the Dominion Post on the city council’s decision this week to make this new building the centre of a Rugby Village for the Rugby World Cup.

It seems that the city’s two ceremonial waka may have to be moved out of their new home, to make way for partygoers.

With 50,000 visitors expected in Wellington for the Rugby World Cup, the Te Wharewaka O Poneke Trust might have been expected to welcome the opportunity to demonstrate the rich heritage of waka culture. Instead, its new wharewaka will be used to demonstrate the Kiwi culture of rugby and beer. (But not New Zealand beer – Heineken is the official sponsor). All but one of Wellington’s city councilors voted for commercial use of the wharewaka. The only opposition came from Councilor Iona Pannett, who felt the plans were over the top.

“Boat shed”, fair to say, might be a misinterpretation of “wharewaka”.

Maybe it’s a “canoe house”. No matter – it will be a bloody flash wharewaka, incorporating lots of aluminium, steel and glass and other traditional Maori building materials, befitting the waka that will be housed therein and a glorious expression of Maori culture.

Oh, and it is costing Wellington ratepayers a packet.

But the taxpayers of Eketahuna (and all other parts of NZ) are chipping in, too. In fact, they are chipping in a much bigger packet than the ratepayers.

And the price keeps going up, as the prices of these things are apt to do.

The Dom-Post today reports:

A Wharewaka – set to be the centrepiece of Wellington’s Rugby World Cup celebrations – will now cost ratepayers $1 million after a last-minute cash top-up.

Wellington City Council voted to grant an extra $200,000 towards the project at a meeting yesterday.

The funding increase came after a personal request from Port Nicholson Block Treaty Settlement Trust chairman Sir Ngatata Love.

Uh, oh. This suggests the trust is financially stretched.

The Dom-Post explains that the wharewaka is being funded by the trust, the Government, the Wellington Tenths Trust, the Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust and the council, which had planned to contribute $800,000.

The Government has so far committed $7million, but Alf expects it to be called on to cough up more, and he moreover expects the Government to agree to cough up more despite the close watch we are supposed to be keeping on public spending because otherwise our Maori Party coalition partner will be apt to become huffy.

Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast said the wharewaka’s estimated cost went from $11m to $12.5m after construction costs increased. “There is a gap,” she admitted.

The council had budgeted $800,000 for the project since the late 1990s, she said.

“It’s been around a long time and we thought it was reasonable to make the increase.”

She expected other partners would also be asked for more money.

Not unexpectedly, the Federation of Wellington Progressive and Residents’ Associations regards the increase as unacceptable.

Its spokesman, a bloke called Tom Law, complained:

“This is another $200,000 to disappear out of ratepayers’ pockets with no consultation whatsoever. It seems to be indicative of some poor planning somewhere.”

But you’ve got to hand it to this Ngatata Love feller, who obviously knows how to get the most out of ratepayers and taxpayers, because not only will the ratepayers be contributing to the building of the shed, but the council then will lease the building from the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust.

The shed (an 1800-square-metre job) – it should be pointed out – has been designed to serve many purposes besides house two ceremonial waka. It will have exhibition and function areas, a cafe and offices, and will host powhiri, carvings, cultural performances and interactive history displays.

Alf presumes this is the sort of shed the Maori used to house their waka before the Pakeha turned up to colonise them and buy their land with muskets and beads and what-have-you, although he wonders just a tad about what they would have served in the cafe in those days.

He also wonders why too many Maori aren’t much more grateful than they happen to be for being colonised, because in those pre-colonisation times they would not have been able to tap into Wellington City Council rates and Government taxes to raise much of the readies for such a splendid shed.

Nor, of course, would they have encountered the strong objections of ratepayers, such as those expressed by the aforementioned Tom Law and reported in public opinion polls.

When the council opted to lease the building, the Scoop commentator cited earlier said:

The council has already spent $800,000 to help pay for the building, disregarding a poll in the Dominion Post where 84 per cent of respondents opposed the expenditure and said it was “outrageous.” Now a further $150,000 will be spent to rent it as “the base for the World Rugby Village” which will be part of a “festival of activity” during the rugby event.

The wharewaka will be given official RWC branding. It’ll sell Rugby World Cup t-shirts and souvenirs – but only the ones which are officially licensed.

The city council is enthusiastic about such commercial activity. Its vision for the wharewaka is as a place for event sponsor promotions and giveaways, areas for rugby merchandising, capacity for Rugby World Cup theming and branding … meet-the-player sessions and autograph sessions, media promotions, recruitment and training of staff, and fund-raising.

Almost as an after-thought, this week’s report to the council mentions that the wharewaka will also be used for a cultural experience including powhiris and Kapa Haka, cultural performances and entertainers … If there’s any space left for them in between the rugby-focused events and the souvenir stalls.

What a comedown from the original vision for the building, as stated by Sir Ngatata Love three years ago: ““The purpose of the development is to bring waka culture to life around Wellington’s harbour and beyond … for events that celebrate waka and their use, together with local Maori history.”

Oh, and let’s not forget that councillors (except for Cr Pannett and Cr Pepperell) also voted to spend $350,000 on a sculpture of a rugby ball, to be erected near the wharewaka.

The boat shed, for those interested in traditional Maori construction, will have two floors.

The two ceremonial waka will be housed in a large glass case on the bottom floor and the upper floor will house the headquarters of the four trusts.

It will have a large conference room overlooking the harbour, office and kaumatua space and a second large meeting room.

Kaumatua space?

Don’t ask.

The project has been on the bubble for some time.

Resource consents were issued for the wharewaka and a wharenui in November 2005 but plans were altered, to provide for just one building, which required further consent.

Hmm. So why can’t the trusts come up with the readies for the boat shed?

Good question.

The Wellington Tenths Trust has assets (more comprehensively listed on its web-site) which include a multi storied commercial property in Wellington’s Pipitea Street, to be tenanted by a government department; a site being considered for development on Lambton Quay; a retirement village with hospital facilities; joint ownership with Massey University of the old museum building)…

Maybe they became over-extended.

The same could be said of the Wellington City Council.

Scoop tells Alf that more than 500 Wellington community groups are losing their websites, their presence on the Internet will disappear and their prime means of connecting with members and encouraging others to join will be gone because the council is shutting down the Wellington Community Network by withdrawing its funding.

Probably saving big bucks, you might think. Well, no. The council has been paying $145,000 per year to keep the 540 local web sites working. Compare that money, which serves thousands of people throughout the whole community, with the millions of dollars on other council projects serving fewer people.

As for its attitude to liquor, Scoop also records the council’s call for people’s views on people drinking in public places.

It already has a 24/7 liquor ban on drinking and carrying liquor in the central business district, Oriental Bay, Mount Victoria lookout, Aro Valley and Central Park.

It is considering extending that ban across the entire city.

Submissions closed in May, but Alf’s observations suggest that making them would be a waste of time if they disagreed with what the council has determined it will do.

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