Council Announces Plans for Wharewaka Rugby Base

12 February 2010

Wellington's waterfront will be buzzing with activity during Rugby World Cup 2011 (RWC 2011), under Wellington City Council plans to create a rugby village centred around the Wharewaka - or canoe house - creating a unique interactive visitor experience.

The rugby village base would be the first major use of the new facility, expected to be completed by late January 2011.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says the plan would give Wellington's RWC 2011 village an enviable edge. "The village concept is a familiar one for many sports events but we believe the Wharewaka will provide something unique and special for both visitors and Wellingtonians.

"We'd work with mana whenua to develop a fantastic cultural experience, including powhiri, carvings, cultural performances and interactive history displays. It'll be like nowhere else in the world."

The $11 million Wharewaka, currently under construction, has been designed to house two ceremonial waka, exhibition and function areas, a café and a limited number of offices.

The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust, Wellington Tenths Trust, Palmerston North Maori Reserve Trust and the Council are contributing more than $4m to the Wharewaka construction, with $7m coming from the Government.

Sir Ngatata Love, chairman of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust, is delighted at the possibility of using the Wharewaka to inform and entertain during RWC 2011.

"The Wharewaka will be a special place, visible and accessible for everyone, locals and visitors alike. What better way to showcase Wellington's rich history than by using the building as the centrepiece of Wellington's contribution to this global event?"

Wellington City Council is part of a RWC 2011 Regional Coordination Group, responsible for planning the Wellington region's tournament activities.

Securing the use of the building for the tournament and the lead-up to it, with an associated programme of cultural activities and entertainment, would cost $150,000. City Councillors will decide whether to include the funding in Draft Annual Plan deliberations at a meeting next week.

Village plans will need final approval from tournament organisers Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd (RNZ 2011) in conjunction with tournament owners Rugby World Cup Ltd, to ensure consistency with 'Fan Zones' that will be set up across the country.

"We want visitors and locals alike to have the best possible RWC 2011 experience no matter where they are in New Zealand," RNZ 2011 CEO Martin Snedden says.

"I think Wellington's rugby village will provide a fantastic focal point for fans to share in the excitement of the tournament and I am sure visitors to the city in particular will take away great memories of what looks like being a uniquely Kiwi experience."

The Wharewaka has been designed by architects Architecture+ to appear as if a korowai (cloak) has been thrown over the roof and is sited between the former Free Ambulance building and the Wellington Rowing Club, near the Taranaki Street wharf.

If Councillors agree to its inclusion at next week's meeting, the funding proposal would then go through the Council's Draft Annual Plan process, meaning the public could have their say during March and April, before the Annual Plan is finalised in June.

More details on plans for Wellington's rugby village base will be announced as they are finalised.