Million dollar hobbit
The Hobbit premiere and Te Papa funding cut are part of the city’s Long Term Plan for 2012-2022, in draft form now and open for public consultation.
As justification for The Hobbit expenditure, the plan reminds us that the 2003 premiere of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, brought over 100,000 parade attendees and “significant overseas media attention” to Wellington. The city estimates $5 million per year in new tourism spending from the event. Te Papa attributes $59 million in tourist dollars to their presence in the city.
“We have no view on how the Wellington City Council distributes its budget to other parties,” said Roxanne Mathys, spokesperson for Te Papa. “The council has to make those decisions, it’s not our place.” The museum is planning a written submission for the consultation.
Richard MacLean, of the council, wasn’t able to provide more specifics about the Hobbit proposal, but although the Lord of the Rings premiere cost “considerably more than $1.5 million, it included a lot of improvement work around the city that won’t have to be done this time.” He couldn’t comment on whether outside funding sources would be part of the celebration.
Other tourist and business garnering efforts in the plan include bolstering Destination Wellington programme with $1 million plus $1.9 million every subsequent year, and $2.54 million to bring the FIFA games to the city.
The Long Term Plan also proposes an average rate increase of 4.1 percent, as well as higher user fees for sewage collection, recycling, city archives, sports fields, burials, and public health.
The plan is thick with other specifics to reduce spending and allocate funds, including $5 million in seismic improvements to the water system, $47.8 million in earthquake strengthening for city buildings, plus $1.5 million over five years for people to improve their own buildings and $329,000 for heritage areas.
The Council also wants to improve bicycle networks at a cost of $1 million per year until 2018, as well as $70 million in other transportation improvements.
The Public Art Fund would be permanently reduced to $200,000 per year and Sports Development Grants cut entirely, but there are 21 percent increases to the cultural grants funding pool and $6.3 million for improving community centres in Aro Valley, Newtown, Strathmore, and Kilbirnie.
Turning Zealandia, the Wellington Zoo, Otari-Wilton’s Bush, and Botanic Gardens over to a separate Council Controlled Organisation is also included in this plan. The public have until May 18 to comment on any of the proposals presented in the Long Term Plan.