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My Wellington




Over the course of 2006, Journalism and Media Studies students have been seeking to document the city of Wellington in innovative and original ways on the website My Wellington. SALIENT brings you a small cross section of some of the diverse and interesting work found at the My Wellington website this year, and strongly recommends checking it out in full, at www. vuw.ac.nz/mywellington
“As a thousand flowers bloom, the web’s garden of information becomes more diverse, enlightening and transformative than anything the traditional paperbased print world can provide.”
– J.D. Lasica
The My Wellington project was born during the heady times of the blogging phenomenon; those fluid online forums that position themselves and their readers as restless, data-gathering vessels in an ocean of online information. What it evolved into was more along the lines of a static internet homepage filled with curious stories, local news and musings about Wellington and beyond from interested Media Studies and Journalism students. We envisioned lofty ideals of robust cyber debate between readers and contributors creating an interactive community online. In many ways, it turned into a small physical community with valuable interaction between the writers and editors of the site.
‘It’s true you can’t live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb.’
– Lauris Edmond
My Wellington attempted to capture the essence of the city and navigate it online. The collection of stories and reflections on the site reveal the immensely different perceptions of what it means to live and breathe Wellington city. One impression that stuck with me was from former chairman of Creative New Zealand, Peter Biggs, who described the city as steep, compact and testing:
“The houses and the people cling stubbornly to the hills, and the hills collide with the sky. Most days I go running, up the pine-covered hills that surround the city where, when the big southerly gales blow, the wind roars like the ocean. It’s a place where I can think and explore and create and dream…Our wild and passionate climate shapes the kind of people we are.”
My Wellington offered a different form and context for discourse surrounding the city and its residents, and the template remains for future initiatives to develop the idea further.
I am so thankful to everyone who stepped up to the plate and shared their thoughts and experiences. Like many new forms of journalism, My Wellington attempted to bridge the gap between news and narrative, and I think it achieved this in many respects. Hopefully the seed has been planted for future students to document our city in innovative ways.
“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
– Joan Didion
Amie Mills My Wellington Editor
Bellamys Bookshop Comes to an End
After nearly 18 years of trading, Bellamys Bookshop will open its doors for the last time on the 31st of March, making it the third new and used bookshop to close in Wellington’s CBD in the past year. Owner Geidelberg Lyudmild sights the store’s imminent closure as largely a result of extortionist parking initiatives and an apparent deterioration of Cuba Street in general. She also despairs over an increased disinterest in book collecting amongst young people.
Situated in the heart of downtown Wellington, Cuba Mall, Bellamys buys, sells and exchanges new and used books, sheet music, records, tapes and CDs. The shop is a revered favourite among book lovers for alternative and obscure books, with subjects ranging from antiques to Russian literature.
“It’s a perfect site for a city, and yet all the time you are aware of natural features and the gigantic geographic scale of the place. It’s the combination of city with geographical landmass that I think makes it, in physical terms, an exciting place to live.” Vincent O’Sullivan
Originally form the Ukraine, Lyudmild and her husband bought the store a little over 16 years ago when she was made redundant and needed a job. The bookshop was a natural choice for her, being an avid reader since childhood. Lyudmild describes Cuba Street in the store’s early years as, “a nice place, very avant-garde and unusual, with lots of different cosmopolitan influences.” Sadly, she believes that Cuba Street has deteriorated in recent years, citing homelessness and the increased number of bars in the area as contributing factors. Interestingly however, Lyudmild believes that the major reason for the store’s recent downturn in business is the price of parking. She complains that paying $4 an hour for parking is too expensive and deters customers. “Why would people come in when they can go to Tawa, Porirua and Lower Hutt for free?”
While Lyudmild considers the parking situation paramount, she does note that while many people read, they do not collect books anymore. Pointing after a man who just left the shop, she exclaims “see that man, he is a real collector. He buys books to read, to collect, to have them to love.” She then despondently adds, “I’ve never seen a young person like that”. In contrast, John Hoskins, owner of Pegasus Book, also in the area, argues that “there is a big book collecting public in Wellington, there always has been.” He sees the major problem that used-book traders face is the consumer’s ability to buy and sell books on the Internet. He optimistically adds however that “certain people will come in because they want to see a book before they buy it.”
Whatever the reason for Bellamys Bookstore closing, it will be sad to see the end of a Cuba Street institution and in its place an expensive leather-clothing store. When asked how she will feel in ending this chapter of her life, Lyudmild laughs, “it’s sad, but we’re not dying”. So what now for Lyudmild? “I am going to become a lady of pleasure and leisure.” No doubt that will involve the enjoyment of a good book or two.
Please Do Touch
Wellington’s Cuba Mall underwent an extreme clay makeover last week as artist John Radford performed an ‘epic Transplasticism’ transforming the Bucket Fountain and a large car into temporary works of art as a belated part of the International Arts Festival.
The Transplasticism involved hand covering the bucket fountain and car in a clay substance that changes in plasticity over time. The installation has been delayed until now, due to bad weather. The clay works are expected to change dramatically over the next few days, and by Sunday (April 1st) the clay will have disintegrated into hundreds of thousands of pieces and disappeared altogether.
People stopped to stare, pxt cell phones flicked open to capture the event and curious pedestrians couldn’t help but reach out to touch the strange substance that spread across Cuba Mall. The poster proclaimed: ‘Please do Touch’ and explained Radford’s intention in creating Transplasticism is to make “things strange for a while, to distort and transform the ordinary into something unexpected.” A ‘Transplastivision’ screen was also installed in the Farmers Department Store window next to the clay car so that passers by could view the creation of the event.
The Bucket Fountain is Radford’s twelfth Transplasticism, including a bus, seven cars, a motorbike, a motor scooter and a three storey pub. Radford’s work investigates the interaction between human culture and nature and the processes of change and decay in urban environments.
Inflammable Tango
If you mention fire-starting in a public park you would have most people calling the fire brigade or local law enforcement. However, for a group of fire and drumming enthusiasts and performers, it is a regular weekly occurrence. Every Tuesday night at Frank Kitt’s Park from 8pm onwards, the Full Moon Drumming team dance in the firelight and practice their performances.
By day Justin Stockbridge is a swimming instructor, but when he is out of the pool he spends most of the time practicing his fire performance skills.
“You’ve gotta have your extreme hobbies,” he says with a grin.
Stockbridge was originally fascinated with medieval sword fighting before discovering fire dancing and has been performing with the group for about three years. Three years of fire dancing may seem like quite a feat, but it is nothing compared to one of the original founders of the group, Jimmy James, who began building the group sixteen years ago.
“Wellington scenery is rich and diverse. We are spoilt for choice.”
Kerry Prendergast
Wellingtonians may remember the Full Moon Drumming group from when they played last year at what was formally known as Zebos, now revamped and renamed The Southern Cross on Abel Tasman Street. Noise control problems drove them away from The Southern Cross and across the city to Frank Kitt’s Park, where the group found there was more space, less hassles and they did not need a permit for busking. Frank Kitt’s, which is close to the Wellington Railway Station, also serves as a handy meeting spot for most of the performers, many of which do not actually live in the city.
“There’s people from Levin, Otaki, Palmy, New Plymouth, Wainuiomata, Upper Hutt and a guy from Auckland comes down once a month,” says James.
When I ask James how much the group has grown since he first started, he points out that the numbers are always shifting.
“Well the group has about fifteen regulars, but sometimes it can grow to about forty or fifty people,” says James.
Spectators range from waterfront restaurant-goers to rugby crowds who can keep warm by the fire as well as be entertained by the music. The array of fire skills on show is equally varied. Most people have probably witnessed fire staffs and pois but while there I discovered fire ribbons, which are like belts on a stick, and chains also being set alight to create a sensational spectacle.
The group travel extensively to music festivals such as the Rhythm and Vines Festival in Gisborne, and Parihaka as well as performing in Fireworks displays, Christmas Parades and Medieval Fairs.
“We were also part of the background in a music video,” says Stockbridge.
James travels from Titahi Bay and in the sixteen years has not missed a Full Moon Drumming meeting, apart from two weeks ago due to the horrible weather the city faced.
The atmosphere at Frank Kitt’s is a real community affair where everyone is included, whether you are joining in or just spectating. When I ask if you need to bring along a drum or fire staff to join in I find out you do not even have to have a drum, as hands can provide enough rhythm to keep the fires burning into the night.
“…that’s the whole point. It’s a real family atmosphere,” adds Stockbridge.
Progress Report: The Lyall Bay Reef
Lyall Bay, the surfing centre of Wellington, may one day get an artifi cial reef designed to create ideal waves for surfing. To fund this, the Lyall Bay Reef Charitable Trust has been fundraising and working for over fi ve years for a proposed sum of NZ$1.5 million of which it has around $400,000, including $200,000 in pledges, as well as successfully securing resource consent. The Lyall Bay Trust could gain fundraising by selling the naming rights of the reef to a company such as the Wellington Airport for sponsorship.
They have been working in conjunction with Raglan based company Artifi cial Surfi ng Reefs Limited (ASR) who are also constructing the Mt Maunganui and Opunake reefs, both internationally known as surfi ng destinations.
However, they have met with various obstacles that have delayed the $1.5 million project. The Lyall Bay Trust organized the sale of land in front of the Briscoes building, adjacent to the runaway and overlooking Lyall Bay. The funds from the sale would go towards the reef development. It would be sold to the airport for development of a café overlooking the bay, parking, and also as an advertising spot for both the Airport itself and the Lyall Bay Trust.
Part of that land however, is a conservation strip owned by the Department of Conservation, as well as being part of the city’s road reserve. This has obstructed the transaction, even though it is essentially unused and unkept land.
If the plan went ahead, The Lyall Bay Trust would need to deal with another major logistical factor and the key ingredient to build the reef: sand. To make the reef, ASR would fill geotextile bags with sand and lay them on the bay’s seabed in an arrow shaped formation pointing out to sea. Each side would be around one hundred metres long and move towards the beach at an angle, creating an ideal wave for surfing.
Sand is a major cost of the project at an estimated value of $200,000 minimum and it would come from the dredging of the Wellington City Harbour scheduled in 2006 by Centre Port to make it deeper for larger freight ships. It has been offered as a pledge to the Trust.
The complication is that the major shipping line P&O who would have owned the larger ships, merged late last year with Maersk, a Danish freight company. The merger has put the dredging of the harbour on hold while the companies restructure, which means that the Trust cannot get its sand until dredging begins.
As noted by a Wellington City Council (WCC) report, The Trust was allocated $265,000 for the project from the WCC in 2004/05 on the condition that the Trust raise at least $400,000 towards the cost of the reef. The WCC is still withholding that allocation because the Trust has only raised $220,000 and does not see eye-to-eye on the estimated cost of the dredged sand being part of the Trust’s $400,000 it was expected to raise.
Another obstacle arose when the WCC voted to pull the funding when the sunken navy ship that was to be a scuba diving attraction off Island Bay broke apart in a twelve-metre swell early this year. The WCC is now waiting for the results of an ASR research report on the existing Mt Maunganui Reef and Narrowneck Reef on the Gold Coast Australia as to whether or not their reef design could hold up to such storms.
The Lyall Bay Trust is also negotiating with the WCC as to who will take ownership of the reef. The Trust wants the WCC to take it, as they have existing infrastructure that could handle ongoing factors such as maintenance of the reef. The Trust has little capacity to do this as it has no other income and works on a volunteer basis. However, the WCC wants the Trust to run it because it views them as experts of the project.
There is a shortage of high quality surf locations in the immediate Wellington area in comparison to the number of surfers, body-boarders and kayakers. A huge number of surfers from beginners to advanced utilise the bay.
The best location in Lyall Bay is known as ‘The corner’ because of its close proximity to the rock wall that lines the east side of the bay. This is a small area and is usually over-crowded when conditions are good. The rest of the bay is subject to shifting sand banks on the bay’s seabed, which provides unreliable conditions that will often ‘close out’, meaning there is no face of the wave to ride, only broken white water.
“The wave would undoubtedly be full to its capacity whenever it broke”, says Tony Lines, Chairman of The Lyall Bay Trust. By using artifi cial surfi ng reef technology at Lyall Bay it will “improve the surfi ng conditions in the Wellington City Area,” Lines argues.
The problem is that surfi ng is that viewed as an unorganized recreational pastime. The reef would allow for events, competitions and demonstrations by professionals, as well as providing a top quality resource for the hundreds of participants in the sport. “ The project is not dead,” said Tony Lines.
Lyall Bay has a long history with the sport, as it was the first place in New Zealand to witness surfing when Hawaiian surfi ng pioneer Duke Kahanamoku gave a demonstration in 1915.
There is a huge demand in Wellington for the reef, but until the many varied factors and obstacles can be aligned, it will remain to be seen whether the project will make it off the sand.