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Wel­come to the second annu­al Fish­Head Wellington’s Top 50 People list – anoth­er half-cen­tury of sig­ni­fic­ant Wel­ling­ton people. It is an exer­cise that once again cel­eb­rates the city’s most power­ful, dynam­ic and cre­at­ive figures.

Like any selec­tion, it has an arbit­rary ele­ment, and its rank­ings are not inten­ded to be con­sidered entirely ser­i­ously – and no doubt they will leave some read­ers splut­ter­ing into their flat whites. Last year’s list cer­tainly pro­voked argu­ment (not to men­tion subtle, and not-so-subtle, pleas for inclu­sion this time round).

But fos­ter­ing a light-hearted debate about who, and what, mat­ters in our region is pre­cisely the point. To that end, we’ve assembled anoth­er diverse list that reflects the many con­tri­bu­tions that have made Wel­ling­ton such a great city – and prove that there’s life (and abil­ity) in the old girl yet.

As in last year’s list, our main cri­terion for inclu­sion in was, quite simply, influ­ence. Who gets things done in Wel­ling­ton? Who is work­ing – either in front of or behind the scenes – to cre­ate change, and reshape the city for the bet­ter? Who has the know­ledge, the net­works and the energy to make things hap­pen? Hav­ing influ­ence in dif­fer­ent spheres was also a key factor for inclusion.

Since last year’s list was com­piled, some people have fallen from grace (and favour), while oth­ers have burst onto the scene. The list is primar­ily made up of those who have made a dif­fer­ence in the last year, but also those who have been influ­en­tial more gen­er­ally – or look set to be so in future.

The list focuses on indi­vidu­als, not com­pan­ies or fam­il­ies (with one excep­tion). We have lis­ted fig­ures from across the wider region, though cent­ral Wel­ling­to­ni­ans pre­dom­in­ate. Nation­al fig­ures who hap­pen to reside in Wel­ling­ton were excluded, as were those who may not have wiel­ded their influ­ence in the best pos­sible way.

We hope we’ve got it about right. But if you think some fig­ures on the list are over­rated, or that worthy names have been over­looked, let us know.

1. Peter Jackson (=)

Director Peter Jackson poses for a portrait in San Diego, Thursday, July 23, 2009. (AP Photo/Chris Park)

A mul­tiple-Oscar-win­ning film-maker, Jack­son has done much to build up the Wel­ling­ton film industry. He has turned phil­an­throp­ist (his cash saved BATS Theatre’s premises) and con­tin­ues to drive the growth of Wellywood.

2. Bernadette Courtney (UP)

30052007  Staff photo. Associate editor Bernadette Courtney. PICTURE: CRAIG SIMCOX © DOMINION POST30/05/2007189137Craig SimcoxWellingtonCopyright to The Dominion Post.  This photograph may not be reproduced, copied or published in any printed or digital form without permission.Head ShouldersJOURNALISMNEWSPAPERS

As edit­or of the Domin­ion Post, she remains the dom­in­ant media play­er in the cap­it­al. This year – espe­cially since John Key’s “dying Wel­ling­ton” crack – the paper has turned its sights on the cap­it­al and what it needs to thrive.

3. Celia Wade-Brown (=)


Wellington’s may­or still struggles for con­trol over her coun­cil, and lost the region­al battle on light rail. But she remains the head of the region’s largest coun­cil, and is work­ing behind the scenes for a smart, green city. Wheth­er that con­tin­ues rests, of course, on the cur­rent elections.

3. John Morrison (=)

FishHead Magazine shoot: Photograph an interview with Celia Wade-Brown and John Morrison ahead of the council elections. Tuesday August 6, 2013. 4:45-5:30pm @ Nikau Cafe, Wellington. Photo by Mark Tantrum |

The former Test crick­eter has always been influ­en­tial in sports mat­ters, but this year has leapt into the spot­light by stand­ing for may­or, as well as bring­ing major events to Wel­ling­ton – and jobs. But with the may­or­alty race an all-or-noth­ing tilt, he could be off the list as quickly as he arrived.

5. Gareth Morgan (UP)


Fund man­ager, investor, phil­an­throp­ist, author and com­ment­at­or, Mor­gan was involved in the charge to res­cue the Wel­ling­ton Phoenix. Since then his anti-cat cru­sade and pro-wild­life ‘Halo effect’ drive have only raised his profile.

 6. Fran Wilde (DOWN)

Fran Wilde

The no-non­sense head of the Great­er Wel­ling­ton Region­al Coun­cil is still driv­ing hard for a super­city, and will almost cer­tainly have a ref­er­en­dum to con­test next year. But her abras­ive style has lost her a few friends.

7. Grant Robertson (UP)

Grant Robertson

With the Labour lead­er­ship in the bal­ance as this went to press, the high-pro­file Wel­ling­ton Cent­ral MP’s future was uncer­tain. But a win for Robertson – and poten­tial prime min­is­ter­ship – would cer­tainly help restore the part of Wellington’s for­tunes that relies on the pub­lic sector.

 8. Kevin Lavery (NEW)

CEO Kevin Lavery portrait

He’s only been Wel­ling­ton City Council’s CEO for a short time, but has stamped his mark, espe­cially with a pre-elec­tion report that called for more bor­row­ing but quick­er decisions. A strong pres­ence, he seems set to become more ‘part of the story’ than most CEOs.

9. Chris Parkin (=)

Chris Parkin1

Now best known for own­ing the Museum Hotel, he is also a former three-term Wel­ling­ton coun­cil­lor with strong polit­ic­al net­works. He sits on numer­ous arts and cul­ture boards, includ­ing the St James Theatre Char­it­able Trust and the Te Papa board. He is also a major pat­ron of artists and arts organisations.

10. Tim Brown (UP)

Tim Brown

An exec­ut­ive at infra­struc­ture firm Infrat­il, Brown also heads up the Cre­at­ive Cap­it­al Arts Trust, which runs the Fringe Fest­iv­al. As a dir­ect­or of Wel­ling­ton Air­port, he’s also driv­ing the plans for a run­way extension.

  1. John Shewan (business) (DOWN)

Former PwC chair­man and super­city advocate

  1. John Milford (business) (UP)

Pres­id­ent of the Wel­ling­ton Employ­ers’ Cham­ber of Com­merce, and Kirks man­aging director

  1. Richard Taylor (arts) (DOWN)

Head of Weta Workshop

  1. Rod Drury (business) (UP)

Founder of world-beat­ing com­pany Xero, and influ­en­tial entrepreneur

  1. Charles Finny (business) (UP)

Top lob­by­ist with Saun­ders Unsworth, former seni­or dip­lo­mat and ex-head of the Cham­ber of Commerce

  1. Ian McKinnon (politics) (DOWN)

Former deputy may­or, and Vic­tor­ia Uni­ver­sity chancellor

  1. Mark McGuinness (business) (UP)

Man­aging dir­ect­or of developers Wil­lis Bond, respons­ible for sev­er­al key build­ing projects

  1. Chris Finlayson (politics) (DOWN)

Min­is­ter for the Arts, and enthu­si­ast­ic cul­ture vulture

  1. Mark Dunajtschik (business) (UP)

Prop­erty developer embroiled in argu­ments over earth­quakes and the Har­courts building

  1. Bob Jones (business) (UP)

Busi­ness tycoon, prop­erty own­er and media personality

  1. Sean Plunket (media) (UP)

Colum­nist, speak­er and Radi­oLIVE talk show host

  1. Rob Morrison (business) (NEW)

Chair­man of Mor­ris­on & Co, which con­trols Infrat­il, and headed the Phoenix res­cue bid

  1. Joseph Romanos (media) (UP)

Edit­or of The Wel­ling­to­ni­an

  1. Martin Bosley (food) (UP)

Eponym­ous res­taur­ant own­er and food world mover and shaker 

  1. Steve Logan (food) (NEW)

Now in sole charge of Logan Brown, and a TV host to boot 


  1. Pat Walsh (academia) (=)

Vice-chan­cel­lor of Vic­tor­ia Uni­ver­sity, and Cham­ber of Com­merce board member

  1. Steve Maharey (academia) (UP)

Mas­sey Uni­ver­sity vice-chan­cel­lor, Cham­ber of Com­merce board mem­ber, and ex-gov­ern­ment minister

  1. Nick Leggett (politics) (NEW)

Young may­or of Pori­rua, push­ing the super­city idea, and tipped for big things

  1. Annette King (politics) (UP)

Long-time Ron­go­tai MP and Labour front-bencher

  1. Liz Mellish (other) (NEW)

Chair of the Wel­ling­ton Tenths Trust

  1. Peter Cullen (business) (UP)

Lead­ing indus­tri­al law­yer, colum­nist and Cham­ber of Com­merce board member

  1. Matiu Rei (other) (NEW)

Ngāti Toa exec­ut­ive dir­ect­or and chief nego­ti­at­or 

  1. Patsy Reddy (business) (NEW)

Law­yer, Film Com­mis­sion chair and arts trust­ee par excellence

  1. Mike O’Donnell (business) (NEW)

Head of oper­a­tions for Trade Me Group and chair­man of Pos­it­ively Wel­ling­ton Tourism

  1. Stephanie McIntyre (civil society) (DOWN)

Dir­ect­or of the Down­town Com­munity Min­istry, and lead­ing voice on home­less­ness and poverty


  1. Ian Athfield (arts) (UP)

Archi­tec­tur­al legend and urb­an design advocate

  1. Ruth Pretty (food) (UP)

Cater­ing queen and major Kapiti businesswoman

  1. Bob Francis (politics) (NEW)

Former Mas­ter­ton may­or, Wair­ar­apa Dis­trict Health Board chair and region­al influencer

  1. Bill Foley (business) (NEW)

Amer­ic­an bil­lion­aire and wine empire builder

  1. Wira Gardiner (other) (DOWN)

Former chair­man of the Te Papa board, and part­ner of Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hekia Parata

  1. James Cameron (arts) (NEW)

Oscar-win­ning dir­ect­or and Wair­ar­apa landowner

  1. Peter Hughes (politics) (=)

Former Min­istry of Social Devel­op­ment boss, now head of the Min­istry of Education

  1. Margaret Mayman (civil society) (NEW)

Depart­ing vicar of St Andrews and Liv­ing Wage and mar­riage equal­ity proponent

  1. Kim Wicksteed (business) N/A

Tour­ism board mem­ber, com­pany dir­ect­or and fath­er of ‘Abso­lutely Pos­it­ively Wel­ling­ton’ campaign

  1. Glenda Hughes (civil society) (DOWN)

PR expert with strong Nation­al Party links, and trust­ee of Kid­sCan and oth­er charities

  1. Neville Brown (politics) (NEW)

Head of earth­quake resi­li­ence at Wel­ling­ton City Council

  1. Julie and Graham Moore (business) (NEW)

Founders of food empire Moore Wilson’s

  1. Geoffrey Palmer (politics) (DOWN)

Former prime min­is­ter and head of super­city invest­ig­a­tion panel

  1. Theresa Gattung (business) (NEW)

Former Tele­com boss, now SPCA chair and philanthropist

  1. Brian Roche (business) (NEW)

Head of New Zea­l­and Post Group and influ­en­tial in major sport­ing events

  1. Geoff Marsland (NEW)


How we did it

The list was com­piled with the help of two mem­bers of the Fish­Head advis­ory board – who, this year, have been excluded from the list in order to avoid any (admit­tedly out­rageous) accus­a­tions of bias. These are Inter­na­tion­al Fest­iv­al of the Arts chair Kerry Pren­der­gast, who is also the head of the Envir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency and a former Wel­ling­ton City may­or, and prop­erty ‘farm­er’ Ian Cas­sels, the head of lead­ing developers The Wel­ling­ton Com­pany and a prom­in­ent com­ment­at­or on Wel­ling­ton affairs. After extens­ive research (includ­ing feed­back from 2012’s list) presen­ted dur­ing heated debate in an even hot­ter room, an ini­tial list of 100 people was chopped, changed, and then dis­tilled fur­ther to leave a draft doc­u­ment con­tain­ing many of the indi­vidu­als presen­ted above.

This list was then refined and form­ally ranked by Fish­Head edit­or Richard Ain­dow and seni­or fea­tures writer Max Rash­brooke. One again, com­plaints, threat­en­ing let­ters and bribes for high­er pla­cings next time should be dir­ec­ted to this duo.



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