Wellington Report 2019: The capital has moved on from the Sevens

ASHTEN MACDONALD/Stuff.co.nz
The fancy dress was still the main attraction of the Wellington Sevens as thousands of costumes poured into Westpac Stadium.

The Wellington Report 2019 - six years on from the first version - takes an in-depth look across seven days at the city and region in terms of economy and employment, governance, housing, resilience, arts and hospitality, transport, and quality of life.

Wellington is never getting back together with the Sevens.

Once New Zealand's biggest party weekend, the annual rugby event shifted north to Hamilton in 2018 after years of dwindling crowds and waning interest.

Some might have thought it would have a major impact on the city, but WellingtonNZ's events and experiences general manager Warrick Dent says it has been a smooth breakup.

"I think the city has moved on," he says.

Food fight in the capital's crowded market
Love the arts, but show me the money
Keeping our creative treasures in the capital
Bill Sheat speaks his mind on the arts in Wellington
Capital sporting venues too big or too small
The show must go on despite earthquake woes

"​When the Sevens first started to wane there was a bit of concern, but the city has just got on with things and since that time we've worked really closely with the stadium to get an additional rugby test each year to sort of fill that gap of the Sevens, and that seems to be working really well."

Since missing out on an All Blacks test in 2015 - a Rugby World Cup year - WellingtonNZ has chased games with more vigour, resulting in two tests being played here in 2016 and 2018, while the city also secured the only British and Irish Lions test to be played outside of Auckland in 2017. 

The All Whites continue to call Westpac Stadium home for their big games - the last three World Cup qualifier playoffs have been played there.

Dwindling interest led to this sad sight at the 2017 Sevens in Wellington.
KEVIN STENT/STUFF
Dwindling interest led to this sad sight at the 2017 Sevens in Wellington.

The Black Caps have played 17 matches at either the Basin Reserve or Westpac Stadium over the past three seasons, which is roughly 20 per cent of their home games. 

In terms of one-off events, there was the ice hockey disaster, which saw the international match at Westpac Stadium delayed and then cancelled in 2018, but both the New Zealand Warriors and New Zealand Breakers played regular season games here in 2019.

The Sevens was New Zealand's biggest party back in its heyday.
STUFF
The Sevens was New Zealand's biggest party back in its heyday.

The Tall Blacks started and finished their Fiba World Cup qualifying campaign at TSB Bank Arena, while the arena also played host to the Silver Ferns.

But the arena is not without its flaws. It was double-booked for the Central Pulse's ANZ Premiership finals the past two years, with the 2018 final moved to Palmerston North, while the 2019 final at least stayed in the wider region when it was held at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua.

The New Zealand Open hasn't been held in the wider Wellington region since Tiger Woods played at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club in 2002, but Royal Wellington hosted the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in 2017, which is arguably as big an event as the NZ Open. 

Westpac Stadium was packed for the All Whites' Fifa World Cup qualifier against Peru in November 2017.
GETTY IMAGES
Westpac Stadium was packed for the All Whites' Fifa World Cup qualifier against Peru in November 2017.

Overall, Dent says Wellington is in a good space with the sports events it hosted.

"I think sports events are going well. Our major events portfolio is well balanced between arts and culture events, and sports events."

TOMORROW: Dear Wellington … the people get to have their say

Stuff