A remarkable gift for Wellington’s national music centre

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra are delighted to announce a transformative $2 million gift from acclaimed filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson and Academy Award-winning screenwriter Dame Fran Walsh.

Athfield Architects’ rendering of the Wellington Town Hall

Their generous contribution will enable the fit out of state-of-the-art recording studios in the Wellington Town Hall basement, and further solidify the city's reputation as a vibrant hub for arts and culture.

When the Town Hall re-opens, it will be a world-class music and recording venue with improved rehearsal and performance spaces. It will be a base for civic and community events and part of a national music centre in partnership with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music—Te Kōkī, and Wellington City Council.

The Town Hall will be the only facility in New Zealand with renowned acoustics and state-of-the-art recording facilities, complementing Wellington’s world-class post-production facilities already recognised by major international film companies.

Sir Peter and Dame Fran say they’re delighted to support New Zealand’s first orchestral recording studios and welcome the opportunity to support local people and talent to thrive.

“New Zealand has long needed a dedicated music recording facility, so it’s wonderful that the NZSO and Victoria University have finally achieved this.”

They say the Town Hall is an exceptional asset for Wellington and was built to be a live performance venue.

“This amazing new facility has far more significance than just being an old building that’s been converted into a recording studio.

“Twelve years ago, we recorded the music for our Hobbit movies in the old Town Hall with the NZSO and the help of London’s Abbey Road studios and several of their best sound engineers.

“After they’d spent a couple of weeks analysing the auditorium, the Abbey Road engineers declared Wellington’s old Town Hall to be ‘one of the best acoustic spaces’ they had ever encountered.

“Think about that for a moment… when the Town Hall was built, microphones and tape recorders didn’t exist—they hadn’t been invented. It was built to be a live performance venue with the sound of every voice and instrument bouncing perfectly from wall to wall.

“Those clever Victorians sure understood the complex science of acoustic engineering.”

Housed in the refurbished basement of the Town Hall, the recording studios will provide a complete in-house package of recording and mixing capability to rival established studios throughout the world. Box-in-box construction will ensure the studio spaces are acoustically isolated, providing the most advanced level of recording facilities available.

NZSO Chief Executive Peter Biggs says Sir Peter and Dame Fran’s generosity will ultimately benefit all New Zealanders.

“The NZSO has a proud history of recording for film, including Hollywood blockbusters. Our aim is to play on many more films and the new facilities will enable us to do so.

“While the recording suite is significant for the NZSO, it will also help raise the profile of Aotearoa New Zealand as a one-stop shop for filmmaking talent, whether it’s acting and directing, visual effects or film scoring. This is essential for Aotearoa New Zealand to continue to attract international productions and to produce world-class homegrown films and television series.”

Chair of the national music centre fundraising campaign, Dame Kerry Prendergast, thanked the donors for their generous support.

“I’m thrilled to be moving forward in the next steps of revitalising our beloved Town Hall.

“Sir Peter and Dame Fran’s generosity will not only empower our local talent in Aotearoa, but also provide a world-class space for film scoring and recording which rivals other countries. I have the deepest gratitude for their invaluable contribution.”

As construction progresses, the University, NZSO, and WCC will collaborate closely to ensure that the facility embodies the vision of nurturing and promoting music in New Zealand.