News | 2 December 2021
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Pōneke Summer City changes for festive season

Wellington City Council is changing up its summer events programme for the safety and well-being of our community in mind – but still with a focus on celebrating Christmas.

A giant fluffy reindeer, Christmas tree and gingerbread person all leaning out of the carriage doors of a train decorated with fake wrapping paper and bows.

Wellington will be getting dressed up for Christmas with some trains and buses adorned in festive wrapping, street flags around the CBD, and the Christmas trees are already signalling the festive spirit in Midland Park and Courtenay Place.

The city will be lit up like a Christmas tree too, with the colours of Christmas glowing around Oriental Bay, the Cable Car tunnels, Carter Fountain, and Hikitea.

Watch out for some secret shop windows dressed up to delight too – there’ll be a few surprises dotted around for the inquisitive types.

The Wellington Summer Sampler kicks-off this week with two months of roving performance, pop-ups, activations, and publicly accessible spectacles happening within the COVID safety guidelines every weekend along the waterfront. 

To make visiting the city and supporting local even easier for car users, there’ll be free weekend parking at Clifton car park with the first two hours parking free, then $2 per hour (or part there-of) to a maximum of $8 a day. The offer is available every weekend from 4-19 December 2021.

Two popular events, Gardens Magic and A Very Welly Christmas, have been reshaped to ensure the capital will still have a festive, safe and summer vibe.

Due to the Government’s requirements for operating events in the Traffic Light System, the Pasifika festival has been postponed to a later date, and the Council will replace the planned New Year’s Eve fireworks with alternative activities to be confirmed.

The Council has consulted with stakeholders and made these difficult decisions as COVID restrictions impacted the planning of annual summer city events.

Planning free events which are open to large communities has become difficult in the current environment, says Chief Customer and Community Officer, Kym Fell.

“Our events team and stakeholders have the city’s health and safety at heart, especially as our more vulnerable members of the community are involved at all these events.

“Celebrating Christmas is still a focus though, so Wellington will get dressed up for the yuletide season, and we’ll be putting all our efforts towards supporting local industries and entertaining the community in a safe and festive way.”

A Very Welly Christmas weekend has been replaced with roaming festive performances and a dressed-up capital for Wellingtonians to celebrate the festive season, support local businesses and the creative sector.

Gardens Magic and Kids Magic won’t go ahead in their usual format in 2022, but we still want Wellingtonians to enjoy summer outings at the beautiful Botanic Garden – so we’re creating a self-led daytime Gardens Trail for people to spend a fun day out with their whānau and friends. More information on the Gardens Trail will be available in mid-December.

While we haven’t set a new date for Pasifika yet, it’s likely to be later in 2022 as we still want to bring our Pacific communities together, to celebrate their stories, culture and knowledge. 


The city has many other drawcards over the summer period with new lions having just arrived at the Wellington Zoo as well as a baby chimp and baby Cotton Top Tamarin.


There’s a variety of events taking place at Zealandia including puppet shows and Whānau yoga, Super Smash Cricket Double Headers at Cello Basin Reserve, fantastic exhibitions at City Gallery including Hilma af Klint: The Secret Paintings to name a few.


Metlink is also offering free travel to all passengers travelling on all bus and train services on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. 


Updates on other free public city events in the year will be determined by Ministry of Health guidelines and the new COVID-19 Protection Framework and requirements.