Avatar deal first step to prosperity

LIVING IN PANDORA: Director James Cameron is working on the script of Avatar 2 & 3 from his farm in Wairarapa.
LIVING IN PANDORA: Director James Cameron is working on the script of Avatar 2 & 3 from his farm in Wairarapa.

Christmas came early for Wellington this past week with the announcement that the next three Avatar movies will be made here.

According to Treasury James Cameron's apparent largesse might well come at a cost but I haven't met a single Wellingtonian who doesn't see it as a positive for this city. Much of the weird world of Pandora that Cameron has created is, of course, computer-generated but there will be a ton of live shots and I understand a fair proportion of underwater filming, which may require the construction of new facilities on the back lot at Miramar.

Even more encouraging is reaction of workers in the film industry who seem to have abandoned the sort of glass-half-empty, class-war criticisms that occasionally surfaced during the Lord of the Rings filming.

I do hope we make the most of the opportunity the deal represents and perhaps develop enough belief in the permanence of the film industry here to be more proactive in selling Wellywood to the rest of the country and the world.

Previous discussions on building some sort of movie themed tourist destination have been derailed by incompetence and personal greed.

With the Avatar deal now in the bag we would be crazy to leave the Weta Cave as the only place visitors can come to connect with the movie magic that is being created here.

So while this city prepares to turn blue and grow a tail Aucklanders are learning to live with their slick willy mayor and council that can do little to control him and Christchurch finds the kitty for its rebuild isn't quite big enough to do everything it wants. Take note, John Key: in comparison to other large municipalities this capital city is hardly dying.

We have a second-term mayor who seems to be using the word economy more often and a bunch of councillors who, if not unified, are at least pretty experienced and represent in a positive way our diverse population.

We've got parking wardens back under the control of our council which will hopefully curb some of the more market-driven excesses of those who patrol the pavements and the council's living wage policy shows our elected city officials can get together and do the right thing.

On top of that we are building up to the International Festival of the Arts next year and the first sod has been turned on Transmission Gully.

We have survived a couple of pretty good shakes this year with minimal damage and personal harm and we are moving forward in making our buildings and city even safer.

In fact I'd argue there is actually more silver lining than cloud around the harbour capital right now and to repeat my exhortations from earlier in the year I just hope more of us realise that in 2014.

The prime minister's whale-sized gaffe aside, the most negative talk I hear about Wellington is from Wellingtonians themselves. It almost seems fashionable to knock this place if you live here without thinking of all the absolute positives we enjoy.

It could be a more positive national economic outlook next year will solve that problem but I reckon it is just as important that our culture of whingeing changes too. If it doesn't there is a danger that life could imitate art as far as the Avatar deal is concerned.

We could, like the big blue folk of Pandora, find ourselves colonised by a group of savvy off-world entrepreneurs who take what they want and leave us desolate once the cameras have stopped rolling.

If his property purchases in the Wairarapa are anything to go by that isn't James Cameron's intention but it would be naive to think Avatar is anything put a step on the journey to a more prosperous and dynamic region.

So, Mr Cameron, thank you for the early Christmas present but let's be careful how we unwrap it.

The Dominion Post