Paul Holmes on New Zealand

Paul Holmes is an award-winning Herald columnist

Paul Holmes: Someone give me a sign that it's not Wellywood

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Is 'Wellywood' the best all those pointy heads in the self-proclaimed cultural capital can come up with?

Sir Richard Taylor (left) and Sir Peter Jackson have 
done a grand job of putting New Zealand on the map. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Sir Richard Taylor (left) and Sir Peter Jackson have done a grand job of putting New Zealand on the map. Photo / Mark Mitchell

To Wellywood or not to Wellywood. Wellywood, Wellywon't, Wellycould.

This is a great matter of bafflement in Wellington at the moment - whether there should be a large sign - Wellywood - in imitation of the iconic sign above Los Angeles which you would see out the left of the aircraft when you landed in Wellington from the north.

The Wellington City Council, which appeared at first to want the sign, now seems to have turned decidedly against it. The airport people seem still to want the sign erected. But where they want to put it is not airport land, apparently. It's all a farce.

But it's a tricky little issue. And against the wishes of my better self, I find my mind giving the matter undue attention.

I can't stop thinking about whether the sign should go up or not.

Wellington tells us with a straight face that it is the political and cultural capital of the nation.

Meaning they have a posh arts festival for white people once a year with the kind of music only pointy-heads listen to.

And, of course, Wellington has Sir Peter Jackson and the giant film industry he's built over in Miramar, behind where the sign would go.

So Wellington really could extend the Hollywood and Bollywood franchises and call itself Wellywood.

No one doubts this. The international fame and acclaim for the films that have come out of the Peter Jackson-Richard Taylor creative cauldron have been staggering, not to mention the money that's poured in and the work they've have provided people.

Wellington could easily change its name to Jacksonville.

So Wellywood is cute. But then again, it's also a bit try-hard. In fact, it's hokey. It's small town. It's a nice word but I think we might all get sick of it.

And of course the mayor is right. The taggers will have a field day. But in the end, it lacks the searing originality one might expect to emerge from a political and cultural capital.

Worst of all, people might start actually calling the city Wellywood. Actually, Wellywood is just dumb. It's provincial. It's just too derivative.

And who wants a capital city called Wellywood?

On the other hand, Wellington is now a serious international film-making centre and seeing Wellywood writ large on a hillside might affirm the fact to visitors as they fly in or out. Maybe that would be a good thing.

And what's this arrangement the Jackson organisation has with the Fire Service?

If, last year, when the unions reared up, you formed the opinion that Sir Peter now runs New Zealand, you would have had your suspicion verified by the news this week that part of the set or something combusted violently and the Fire Service was called. The Fire Service refused to say what the nature of the emergency was.

Putting out a fire over at the Hobbit Centre was a matter of confidentiality, apparently. The fireman said this with a straight face. Since when are fires confidential? How is anyone's commercial integrity compromised by the Fire Service saying what happened? Nevetheless, there were two good parts to this development. At least they put the fire out. And there are probably going to be plenty of fireworks and inflammatory stuff in The Hobbit.

All of which is less painful to contemplate than where Treasury hopes to get 170,000 new jobs from. But that's Treasury. As a colleague puts it, Treasury is the outfit that looks at how things work in practice and tries to imagine how they'd work in theory.

The Obama magic descended on London this week. London looked green and warm and beautiful. They are such young, fresh men, Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

They represent a renewal of the world - or of the Western alliance anyway - insofar as they're a new generation. I loved seeing them play table tennis. Obama plays a good bit of table tennis but Cameron was no goose either.

I suppose they check that kind of thing out well in advance. You couldn't have an athletic American president playing table tennis with an Englishman would couldn't hit a ball.

Which reminds me. Back home, Labour's really got to get its act together. Nowhere was Labour's lack of smarts more to be seen than on Budget day.

Key's budget speech was superb. It was funny. Funny wins every time. Suggesting Phil Goff gets texts not only from Helen Clark but also Bernie Madoff was a master stroke.

But my point is this. When Key gets up to speak, sitting behind him are two young members, Chris Tremain and that attractive woman next to him whose name I've no idea of.

They're young, they're new faces.

When Goff gets up to speak there behind him, looking sour, are two faces of the past.

No disrespect to Steve Chadwick or Rick Barker but neither represents renewal. I mean, Rick Barker even lost his seat some years back.

That seating arrangement has to change. It's entirely the wrong signal.

- NZ Herald

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