26 May 2011

Council calls on airport to rethink Wellywood sign

11:55 am on 26 May 2011

A Wellington council has called on the city's airport company to reconsider plans for a large Hollywood-style sign.

Wellington International Airport plans to erect the 8-metre-high by 30-metre-wide Wellywood sign on the hills of Miramar Peninsula.

But the decision has drawn widespread criticism - particularly on social networking sites, where people have described it as lame and embarrassing.

At a meeting held on Wednesday night, Wellington City Councillors voted 10 to 4 in favour of asking the airport to reconsider its plans.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said she is concerned that if it is built, the sign will undermine the hard work Wellington has done to establish itself as a political and cultural capital.

Ms Wade-Brown told Morning Report she believes the council is representing the views of the majority of Wellingtonians, "particularly those that would be looking at the sign every day".

"Wellywood is quite a lighthearted joke word, but when you actually have to look out at it I would imagine the joke would wear thin."

Councillor John Morrison who voted against the motion on Wednesday said the council had no right to tell the airport what to do when it has done everything above board.

Councillor Andy Foster, who supported the motion, said the airport shouldn't go ahead with its plan because many residents oppose the sign.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister John Key said he was not in favour of the sign and would prefer that it simply read: "Wellington".

Earlier this week, councillor Helen Ritchie called for a High Court review into the matter. Ms Ritchie, a former chair of the Wellington Airport Authority, is angry that the council did not notify the public before approving resource consent.

Wellington International Airport chief executive Steve Fitzgerald said there was nothing wrong with the consent process and believed a judicial review would be a waste of time and money.

Meanwhile, the trademark holder of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles has threatened legal action if the sign is erected.

Who voted how

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown put forward the motion that Wellington International Airport Ltd reconsider its decision to erect the Wellywood sign. It was seconded by councillor Paul Eagle.

For: Celia Wade-Brown, Paul Eagle, Ngaire Best, Stephanie Cook, Andy Foster, Leonie Gill, Justin Lester, Iona Pannett, Bryan Pepperell and Helene Ritchie.

Against: John Morrison, Simon Marsh, Jo Coughlan and Ray Ahipene-Mercer.

Abstained: Ian McKinnon (council representative on the Wellington airport board).