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 (=)
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)
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 (=)
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)
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)
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)
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 (=)
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)
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.[one_half]
John Shewan (business) (DOWN)
Former PwC chairman and supercity advocate
John Milford (business) (UP)
President of the Wellington Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, and Kirks managing director
Richard Taylor (arts) (DOWN)
Head of Weta Workshop
Rod Drury (business) (UP)
Founder of world-beating company Xero, and influential entrepreneur
Charles Finny (business) (UP)
Top lobbyist with Saunders Unsworth, former senior diplomat and ex-head of the Chamber of Commerce
Ian McKinnon (politics) (DOWN)
Former deputy mayor, and Victoria University chancellor
Mark McGuinness (business) (UP)
Managing director of developers Willis Bond, responsible for several key building projects
Chris Finlayson (politics) (DOWN)
Minister for the Arts, and enthusiastic culture vulture
Mark Dunajtschik (business) (UP)
Property developer embroiled in arguments over earthquakes and the Harcourts building
Bob Jones (business) (UP)
Business tycoon, property owner and media personality
Sean Plunket (media) (UP)
Columnist, speaker and RadioLIVE talk show host
Rob Morrison (business) (NEW)
Chairman of Morrison & Co, which controls Infratil, and headed the Phoenix rescue bid
Joseph Romanos (media) (UP)
Editor of The Wellingtonian
Martin Bosley (food) (UP)
Eponymous restaurant owner and food world mover and shaker
Steve Logan (food) (NEW)
Now in sole charge of Logan Brown, and a TV host to boot
Pat Walsh (academia) (=)
Vice-chancellor of Victoria University, and Chamber of Commerce board member
Steve Maharey (academia) (UP)
Massey University vice-chancellor, Chamber of Commerce board member, and ex-government minister
Nick Leggett (politics) (NEW)
Young mayor of Porirua, pushing the supercity idea, and tipped for big things
Annette King (politics) (UP)
Long-time Rongotai MP and Labour front-bencher
Liz Mellish (other) (NEW)
Chair of the Wellington Tenths Trust[/one_half] [one_half_last]
Peter Cullen (business) (UP)
Leading industrial lawyer, columnist and Chamber of Commerce board member
Matiu Rei (other) (NEW)
Ngāti Toa executive director and chief negotiator
Patsy Reddy (business) (NEW)
Lawyer, Film Commission chair and arts trustee par excellence
Mike O’Donnell (business) (NEW)
Head of operations for Trade Me Group and chairman of Positively Wellington Tourism
Stephanie McIntyre (civil society) (DOWN)
Director of the Downtown Community Ministry, and leading voice on homelessness and poverty
Ian Athfield (arts) (UP)
Architectural legend and urban design advocate
Ruth Pretty (food) (UP)
Catering queen and major Kapiti businesswoman
Bob Francis (politics) (NEW)
Former Masterton mayor, Wairarapa District Health Board chair and regional influencer
Bill Foley (business) (NEW)
American billionaire and wine empire builder
Wira Gardiner (other) (DOWN)
Former chairman of the Te Papa board, and partner of Education Minister Hekia Parata
James Cameron (arts) (NEW)
Oscar-winning director and Wairarapa landowner
Peter Hughes (politics) (=)
Former Ministry of Social Development boss, now head of the Ministry of Education
Margaret Mayman (civil society) (NEW)
Departing vicar of St Andrews and Living Wage and marriage equality proponent
Kim Wicksteed (business) N/A
Tourism board member, company director and father of ‘Absolutely Positively Wellington’ campaign
Glenda Hughes (civil society) (DOWN)
PR expert with strong National Party links, and trustee of KidsCan and other charities
Neville Brown (politics) (NEW)
Head of earthquake resilience at Wellington City Council
Julie and Graham Moore (business) (NEW)
Founders of food empire Moore Wilson’s
Geoffrey Palmer (politics) (DOWN)
Former prime minister and head of supercity investigation panel
Theresa Gattung (business) (NEW)
Former Telecom boss, now SPCA chair and philanthropist
Brian Roche (business) (NEW)
Head of New Zealand Post Group and influential in major sporting events
Geoff Marsland (NEW)[/one_half_last]
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.