Capital City Initiative

Aerial view of central Wellington.

Excerpt from front cover of Our Extraordinary Democracy - The Capital City Initiative


The Capital City Initiative is a collaborative project aimed at celebrating Wellington's status as the capital city, and the role that its national institutions play in New Zealand's democracy.

The project was officially launched on 1 September 2009 by Prime Minister John Key and the former Mayor of Wellington Kerry Prendergast.

The initiative arose out of the Council's long-term planning processes and is a key part of the Wellington 2040 project.

Treasure showcase

The initiative aims to turn Wellington into a showcase for its nationally significant treasures, ideas and stories by:

  • elevating the capital city's status
  • making the Capital Centre (around Parliament) a magnet for visitors
  • telling the stories of New Zealand's democracy.

Public space improvements

The initiative proposes urban design improvements (mainly around Parliament), to be made in time to mark Wellington's 150th anniversary as Capital City in 2015.

The improvements include:

  • enhancing the Capital Centre's walkability
  • improving the streetscape to better reflect the importance of the institutions there
  • celebrating key streets, particularly Molesworth, Aitken and Whitmore streets
  • integrating the Capital Centre better with the central city.

Council investment

The Council has already committed to the following investments:

  • $3.5 million planting of pohutukawa trees on Taranaki Street to create a processional route to the National War Memorial (2010)
  • $2.1 million revamp of the Molesworth Street area to make it a more appropriate 'front door' to Parliament
  • $1 million upgrade of the Whitmore Street area, scheduled for 2016/17.

Government investment

The Government has committed to investing in several Capital City projects:

  • construction of the new Supreme Court (opened January 2010)
  • $43 million renovation of Government House (2011)
  • a major upgrade of the National Library of New Zealand (2011/12)
  • land purchase for a national memorial park on Buckle Street.

New Zealand's democracy

The initiative also proposes a coordinated and strategic approach to telling the stories of New Zealand's democracy. The Council and key central government stakeholders have begun working on this and suggestions include:

  • a visitor information centre in the Capital Centre, including a web portal
  • encouraging government institutions to have a central marketing strategy, including an "open-door" policy (where appropriate) to welcome visitors, provide tours and display artefacts
  • walking tours of the Capital Centre
  • better signage to explain and relate stories about each building or space
  • more events to mark historic occasions
  • a new bicultural name to reposition the Capital City in the minds of all New Zealanders.