Time to reboot— Wellington


New Zealand’s capital is driving to establish itself as a major hub for innovation. It’s small enough to create an intimate working environment – and big enough for the plan to work.

Jo Coughlan, John Key, New Zealand, Wellington

Visiting the offices of software developing company Resn, you’d never guess that you were at the headquarters of a company celebrated worldwide for its creative excellence. Suspiciously reminiscent of student housing, a huddle of black leather couches serves as a meeting room. The office is complete with a beer tap, a collage of a cat made out of pizza slices and bunk beds in case the staff get tired.

Luckily for Resn, it matters little how the company looks in real life, as the digital branding business exists to make products look good online…


Jake Yocum

Co-director, Izzat Design prop builders

How did the idea for Izzat come about?
I met the other three directors when we were working on King Kong around seven years ago. I’d returned from England where I worked on big budget films. It seemed a good time to get a new business going.

Why operate as a company rather than an individual contractor?
You’re a one-man band over there on a film set. You spend a lot of time just waiting for the phone to ring on a job. We thought we’d consolidate our skills and do this.

*What has the film industry done for Wellington?**
It’s put us on the map. We’re internationally respected because of Peter Jackson but the drawback is that people fly in and just expect to get work. Our company is strong because we’re not paying ourselves inflated wages and we work on diverse projects.

Clean tech

Economic development agencies are channelling resources into the clean-tech industry and view it as a key area for growth. In 2010 the country’s first Clean Technology Centre opened just north of Wellington and now houses 11 companies. The sector grew 8 per cent in 2011, generating NZ$59m (€37m).

One local sustainable business finding international success is The Formary, creating textiles from industrial waste. Its WoJo product, an upholstery fabric made from discarded coffee sacks blended with wool, caught the attention of Starbucks, which has used it on couches and chairs in its stores around the world.


Manufacturing has dwindled over the past decade but it remains an important contributor to the economy, generating NZ$974m and employing 15,000 people last year. The industry is characterised bycompanies making specialised products for niche markets.

Outdoor clothing company Icebreaker, launched in 1994, makes hi-tech Merino wool products with a focus on sustainable sourcing and ethical manufacturing. Icebreaker is now distributed in 42 countries with offices in Portland, speciality stores in New York and its sights set on the Japanese market. Most importantly, though, its HQ remains in the heart of Wellington.

Food and beverage

If there is one product that symbolises Wellingtonian culture, it’s coffee. Residents love bringing up the (disputable) statistic that Wellington has more cafés per capita than New York.

Grow Wellington is tapping into this reputation with a five-year strategy to establish Wellington’s identity as a source for premium products. As well as coffee, it is targeting export markets for wine, chocolate, craft beer, honey and olive oil.

The food and beverage industry is one of the fastest expanding sectors in New Zealand’s capital, with growth of 4.2 per cent last year and an economic output of NZ$597m.

Screen and digital

The film industry got a major boost in 2001 when Peter Jackson brought the lucrative Lord of the Rings circus to town. The success of the trilogy allowed Jackson to create world-class facilities that have lured major films such as Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin to the region, particularly for post-production wizardry.

Surprisingly, the economic value of the sector has remained fairly static for the past decade, at about 1 per cent of the region’s economic output. Last year the industry generated NZ$218m and employed around 4,000 people. This year is a bumper year – cameras are currently rolling on Jackson’s latest, The Hobbit.


Rod Drury

CEO, Xero online software company

Why Wellington?
There are a handful of cities in the world where software flourishes – Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Wellington, Melbourne. That’s got a lot to do with them being really fun, centralised towns where people stay and mingle, which allows you to build deep and diverse relationships.

How has the industry changed over the years?
Cloud technology allows us to operate globally but still in our unique way. With Xero, we’re five years into it. We’ve got 60,000 customers and 240,000 users around the world.

Is there a good skills base in Wellington?
Being a government town, there has always been a lot of money spent on ICT because government departments have to spend their budgets.

Do your staff have to work around the clock?
No. They sleep. We have people all over the world, and like to think of ourselves as a mini multi-national. Most of our development staff are in Wellington, but we also have teams in Australia, the US and the UK.


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