Matthew Backhouse

Matthew Backhouse is a NZME. News Service journalist based in Auckland.

WOW sticks with Wellington

The event is worth an estimated $15.1 million in economic benefits to Wellington. Photo / Supplied
The event is worth an estimated $15.1 million in economic benefits to Wellington. Photo / Supplied

Wellington has all but cemented itself as the permanent home of the World of Wearable Art awards after signing a nine-year strategic partnership.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and World of Wearable Arts (WOW) founder Dame Suzie Moncrieff announced the deal today ahead of the show's 25th anniversary next year.

The awards moved from Nelson to the capital in 2005 and were worth an estimated $15.1 million a year in economic benefits to the city, including $4.9m in retail trade, according to a 2009 study.

Dame Suzie said she was sure other cities would love to host the event.

"But WOW is certainly cemented here in Wellington. This is our home. There's definitely no other place that could put WOW on as well as Wellington does.

"It is important that Wellington is our domestic home for the WOW awards show, as there is such a strong base of creative talent for us to work with which allows us to ensure that our show is world-class year after year.''

Dame Suzie said the awards could only keep getting better.

"That's the challenge that I have each year, to make sure it's completely different from the previous year.''

Ms Wade-Brown said Wellington was now "home'' to the awards and a launching-pad for WOW internationally.

She would be unconcerned if Auckland Mayor Len Brown came knocking.

"Len Brown has got no door to knock on for the next nine years.''

The deal was good news for the Wellington economy in challenging times.

The awards supported "a whole industry'' of set designers, dancers, producers, entertainers and musicians, with more than 400 people employed by the production each year.

Ms Wade-Brown said WOW had flourished since moving to Wellington and was now a global event.

"WOW is a great brand of wearable magic that tells the Wellington story of innovation, smart technology and spectacular creativity, and we believe that will attract talent to live, work and play here in the coolest little capital in the world.''

More than 47,000 people attended this year's awards, with 30,000 visiting out of town.

The economic impact of this year's awards were not yet known, but Ms Wade-Brown said most city hotels had enjoyed a 95 per cent occupancy rate. Retailers and restaurants had also reported a significant sales boost.

The strategic partnership will be funded from the council's $1.8m major events fund, which also goes towards the likes of the annual Rugby Sevens tournament - but the value of the deal has not been disclosed due to commercial sensitivities.

- APNZ

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