New home on Wellington waterfront for film museum

HISTORY REMEMBERED: Peter Jackson on the set of Braindead in 1992.
MARK COOTE/Evening Post

HISTORY REMEMBERED: Peter Jackson on the set of Braindead in 1992.

Wellington's long-heralded film museum finally looks set for a waterfront home.

The idea was first suggested in 2001, as Lord of the Rings fever established Wellington on the international movie-making map.

Talks between the city council and Rings kingpins Sir Peter Jackson and Sir Richard Taylor about a museum are understood to have been taking place for years, but crucial questions have always included where it would be sited.

Now the draft Wellington Waterfront Development Plan, being considered by a council committee today, has confirmed that a "movie museum" is headed for the waterfront.

Likely locations look like including Site 10 - the motorhome park opposite the NZ Post building in Waterloo Quay - and another next to Waitangi Park.

The council has listed the movie museum project as one of its main priorities for the next 10 years, to be funded out of a $200 million "war chest" being set aside in the draft Long-Term Plan, which is also being debated today, to pay for the council's "eight big ideas", including the airport extension and an indoor arena.

A film museum would be a big draw for Wellington tourism. The Lord of the Rings exhibition at Te Papa in 2002 drew 325,000 people and remains its most popular exhibit.

The Rings trilogy was estimated to have lifted New Zealand visitor numbers from 1.8m in 2000 to 2.4m in 2006. A survey in 2013 showed 8.5 per cent of visitors to Wellington said The Hobbit was a deciding factor in their destination choice.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown would not be drawn on possible locations yesterday, but said any museum would include interactive displays. "It's quite a complex piece of both economic and physical design work."

Jackson and Taylor have also given few details in the past, but Gandalf actor Sir Ian McKellen dropped a few hints at the latest Hobbit premiere in London last year.

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"Of course the next development I hope is that Peter's going to devise, not more films, but a situation that you can all go to that is as much theatrical as cinematic.

"A living museum where you will actually have the experience - as you sometimes do in the greatest exhibitions of that sort in Hollywood - to go into that and be there."

The Jackson name alone could be worth a fortune if it was attached to the museum. The city of Chicago was delighted when Star Wars film-maker George Lucas decided he would build a museum of his treasures in that city, and a Jackson-related museum in Wellington could be considered comparable.

In August a spokesman for Jackson confirmed the involvement in museum talks of George Hickton, former boss of Tourism NZ and a director of several Jackson-linked companies.

Among the many sites considered over the years are Shelly Bay; Shed 1, on the Queens Wharf outer T; and the former CitiOps building at the southern end of Tory St.

Ian Pike, manager of City Shaper - the council business unit formerly known as Wellington Waterfront - said talks were continuing and an array of sites had been looked at, including Site 10 and one next to Waitangi Park.

"The waterfront is an attractive place for it," he said, but conversations were moving slowly and it would be some time before any decisions were made.

There are limited available sites on the waterfront, with plans for a new building on Site 10 approved last year. However, no building has yet been approved for the neighbouring Site 9.

Other projects in the waterfront plan include spending $400,000 to install changing rooms and public toilets in the Taranaki Wharf precinct to cater for market crowds and thrill seekers jumping off the dive platform.

There's also $5.55m for an upgrade of Frank Kitts Park.

 - The Dominion Post

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