Opening the Doors of Local Democracy - Mayoral Open Day

12 June 2012

With questions swirling around the future of local government, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says it's an ideal time to learn about its history.

Mayor Wade-Brown and Deputy Mayor Ian McKinnon are welcoming all Wellingtonians to the Town Hall this Saturday 16 June for an insider's tour of the Mayor's Office and Council Chamber.

The Mayor says the open day provides an opportunity to learn about Wellington's fascinating history and find out more about how Council works for you.

"There's a lot of discussion about the future of local government in Wellington, this is a chance for Wellingtonians to learn something about our history," she says.

Last year's inaugural open day saw a few hundred people through the doors of the Council Chambers and Mayoral Office at the Wellington Town Hall, which was officially opened 1904.

As with last year's event, visitors will be entertained with colourful stories of Wellington's local politics and buildings by Gabor Toth - a local and New Zealand history specialist from Wellington City Libraries.

"The Town Hall is one of Wellington's most historical buildings, but it was nearly consigned to the dustbin of history in the 1980s," says Gabor. "The Michael Fowler Centre was built so close to the Town Hall's old main entrance because it was going to be demolished."

The Town Hall and adjoining Municipal Office Building are due to be upgraded in 2013 to meet earthquake strengthening requirements, at a cost of $30 million.

The Town Hall's exterior is very different today from when it was first built. The clock tower, which graced Wellington's cityscape for 30 years, was removed as a precaution after the 1931 Napier earthquake: "It proved to be so well built that explosives had to be used to remove it," says Gabor.

As well as viewing a fascinating collection of art and artefacts, visitors will be able to tour the restored interiors of the Mayor's Office and the grand Council Chamber, where portraits of all 31 mayors are on display. Gabor's presentation will reveal more of the politics and personalities behind the portraits.

The Town Hall is located at 111 Wakefield Street. Visitors are welcome any time between 10.00am and 1.00pm on Saturday 16 June - please come to the door opposite the Michael Fowler Centre, then up the stairs or lift to level one. Presentations followed by tea and coffee take place on the hour every hour from 10.00am to 1.00pm.