Conference & Exhibition Centre opens a world of opportunities

Wellington’s future as a business events destination has been assured with Wellington City Council giving the green light for the new Conference and Exhibition Centre (CEC).

Construction on the 18,000-square-metre (sqm) CEC, which features 10,000sqm of dedicated convention space spread across its top two floors and a 1,650 sqm ground-floor exhibition gallery to accommodate touring exhibitions, is set to start next year.

WREDA’s Regional Development Destination and Attraction General Manager David Perks says the council’s decision to build a world class facility enhances Wellington’s position as a leading conference destination in Australasia.

“Wellington has always been competitive with the conference venues available in the city but the WCEC will take things to a new level. It will enable the city to not only retain its current share of conferences but also put in bids for larger international conferences that would simply have been too big for existing venues. It will put us on an equal footing with Auckland and Christchurch who both have conference venues under construction, and the Australian market where all major cities have purpose-built convention facilities.

“It will also allow Wellington’s core performance venues such as the Opera House and Michael Fowler Centre to focus entirely on performance events. This will help increase the number and variety of live concerts and shows being staged in Wellington.”

Mr Perks says the business events market is currently worth around $240 million to the city and is among the most lucrative within Wellington’s tourism portfolio.

“Business event visitors each spend on average $299 a day compared to non-business event visitors who spend $190 each a day. That spending gets spread across the city on things such as accommodation, transport, eateries and bars, and in the retail sector.

“BERL’s [Business and Economic Research Ltd’s] CEC business case reveals the new convention centre would host 111 new events annually, delivering nearly 149,000 new delegate days to Wellington. This represents 16 per cent growth from the current position.

“Add in the fact that the exhibition space is expected to attract over 272,000 annual visitors, generating an additional $3.8 million in direct visitor spend in Wellington, and it’s easy to see the value the WCEC will bring to Wellington.”

The BERL report also revealed the convention and exhibition spaces would contribute a $90.6 million annual spend, adding $44.8m to Wellington’s GDP while creating 554 new jobs.

It also showed the three-year construction phase would generate an additional $171m spend, contribute $76m GDP to Wellington’s economy, and create 864 jobs.

Tourism New Zealand’s Global Business Events Manager, Anna Fennessy says the development of a large-scale conference venue is a huge win for Wellington.

“International business events deliver a range of benefits beyond the significant economic contributions they provide to the local economy. They have the potential to generate long-lasting positive social change in our communities through the expert knowledge delegates bring with them and they allow Kiwis to share their expertise and knowledge too.

“The introduction of a large-scale conference venue for Wellington means these benefits will be absorbed across the region for years to come.”

The CEC was designed by Wellington-based Studio Pacific Architecture. Principal architect Daryl Calder says the design draws its inspiration from many sources including Wellington’s harbour, its famed wild weather, hilly landscape and Maori mythology, particularly Te Ūpoko-o-te-Ika-a-Māui (Maui’s head of the fish).

“The building’s glass cladding emphasises the shimmering, sinewy skin which changes in transparency throughout the day as it reflects Wellington’s variable weather. What also makes it a distinctly Wellington building is the use of raw and natural earthy tones, materials and colours throughout. It’s a building designed for Wellington that celebrates its location and context.”

Media release by Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency (WREDA)