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Juliet asks Romeo: "What's in a name? That what we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

They find out the hard way that there's a lot in a name.

He's a Montague and she's a Capulet and never the twain shall meet. Their surnames are the reason the young lovers don't live happily ever after.

The rest of the country might be asking the same question in relation to Wellington Airport's plan to erect a 28m long, 3.5m high "Wellywood" sign on a hillside next to the Miramar cutting.

But for better or worse Wellington is the nation's capital, so the nation has something to lose if the capital makes itself a laughing stock.

There are various grounds on which to question this proposal, starting with the fact that Wellingtonians are - depending on which sample of public opinion you go by - firmly, resolutely, or absolutely bloody adamantly opposed to it.

The word "tacky" has romped back into fashion.

Public opinion doesn't seem to be an issue for Wellington's apparently star-struck mayor Kerry Prendergast. There's nothing new or surprising in politicians ignoring the wishes of the people they're supposed to represent, but they're seldom as self-revealingly frank about it.

If movie director Sir Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop boss Richard Taylor are all for it, that's good enough for Prendergast: "Peter was really clear about it being an exact copy of the Hollywood sign because he wanted it to be a send-up. He and Richard epitomise creativity and innovation in this city, and I'm going to go with their judgment."

(It was left to Leron Gubler, president of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, to ask the obvious question: if Wellington is such a hotbed of creativity, why can't it come up with something original?)

What Peter and Richard want, it seems, Peter and Richard get. The Soviet bloc had gerontocracy - rule by old men. Much of the third world suffers from the blight of kleptocracy - rule by the corrupt and the larcenous. Iran is a theocracy - a society ruled by priests - while the US is arguably a plutocracy, a society ruled by the wealthy.

Welcome to Wellington, the birthplace of celebritocracy.

If you're going to elevate creative and innovative people above the bovine masses who've never had an original idea in their lives, Wellington is the place to do it. It prides itself on being a cultural centre, and does seem to have more than its fair share of arty types.

Strangely enough, their views don't seem to count either, even though Wellington is a far more obvious influence and source of inspiration in the work of many of the city's artists, photographers, writers and craftspeople than in the Jackson/Weta output. Indeed there's probably more of Wellington in the recent Tom Scott-scripted movie Separation City than the entire Jackson oeuvre.

Which leads us to the point that Team Jackson and Weta are not part of any local cultural tradition or movement; they are an outpost of Hollywood. Nothing wrong with that: good on them, in fact, for wanting to be part of the big show and succeeding so spectacularly.

Good on them, too, for keeping one foot planted at home.

It does, however, beg the question - where are they coming from? Jackson's spokesman said the sign should be seen as satire, but it seems disingenuous to satirise your industry from an office on Mahogany Row.

How can they send up something in which they're intimately involved, something whose rules and values they appear to endorse without qualification, and whose accolades and rewards they're happy to accept?

It smacks of wanting to have it both ways: reap the benefits of being insiders, yet pose as subversive outsiders.

The claim that the sign will be - and be seen to be - a send-up of Hollywood is either delusional or a smokescreen.

The Wellywood concept is about Wellington, a jokey expression of pride in the achievements of a small group of locals and an ironic reaction to Wellington of all places, a grey government town now seeking to reinvent itself as a lively, quirky but decidedly unglamorous mini-city, becoming a far-flung outpost of Tinseltown.

The sign on the hillside will transform Wellywood from humorous self-deprecation to humourless self-importance.

As Gubler suggests, it will be a two-week wonder. He could have added: and thereafter an embarrassment.

International visitors, unaware of or indifferent to Wellington's minor place in the filmic scheme of things, will be bemused. When they discover that the Hollywood connection is largely based on one individual, they'll be scornful or pitying.

And Wellington will have performed the remarkable feat of making itself the butt of its own joke.