If you don’t like lengthy deep navel gazing, take this tl:dr and be on your way until the next post: the Wellingtonista website has been very neglected for a number of years, and I intend to do better – perhaps you might like to contribute something too. 

I was 24 when James asked me to write for what was then called the Wellingtonist (after the Gothamist and SFist – it was meant as a compliment but they told us off so we added the ‘a’ later). I am nearly 44 now.

A lot has changed over the past twenty years. Back then, Peter Jackson hadn’t entered his villain error, and one of our first posts was about local upstart Taika Waititi getting a US$100,000 Oscar nominee gift bag for his short film.  Then we were mourning the original Bar Bodega as the bypass was built – now the “new” Bodega has been shuttered for a bunch of years (okay I will have to google it because that’s how loose my sense of time is these days. 2016. Bloody hell). ‘

There are a whole lotta reasons why contributions to this site have mostly just been theatre reviews over the past… eight years or more (spoiler alert: it’s me, hi, I’m the problem etc), but first, let’s go back in time to 2005 to see what we were once before we were this. And let’s talk about the we too.

The ‘ista lore

In 2004, our founder James Guthrie outted had outed himself as the actual author of BizGirl – winner of the Best Personal Blog at the Netguide Awards (remember that – there used to be a PAPER MAGAZINE about the internet) and I guess he wanted a new challenge, so he started a website about Wellington. I knew James through the forums on NZmusic.com (remember, specialised forums? Good times), so I sent him a couple of ideas for stories. In April 2025, he invited me and a couple of other local bloggers (although I will still to this day tell you that Hubris is an ONLINE JOURNAL, not a blog) Jessie, Llew, Alan and Mike to join him.

“The obvious question arises. What is the collective name and plural of ‘wellingtonist’?” he asked. I don’t know if we ever answered that question but we started having lunches together anyway, including one memorable time when Llew brought Damian Christie along who could not have entered in a more Auckland style if he’d tried, talking on a cellphone and wearing a suit. Because of course there was blog circle overlap. I think it was partly Russell Brown closing down Public Address officially this week that’s kicked my butt back into Wellingtonista mode.

Lunches became drinks. More members were added. Other bloggers came to our meetup drinks. I am distracted looking at our old site seeing how we had to use photobucket to include images in our posts. A lot of phones didn’t have cameras in them yet. The iPhone did not exist yet. But we tried to post about upcoming gigs, speculated on where the mystery bar of the week that WellUrban had written about could be, wrote about art exhibition openings – attended art exhibition openings. We challenged other bloggers to write about what they liked about the city.

I should point out that we were all various ages. Jessie and I were in our early 20s, but the others were in their 30s or even 40s. Alan, Mike, Martha and James had young kids, Llew had teenagers. Tom had a fear of kids. But drinks after work were easy to plan on an email thread. I had flatmates I might not necessarily want to hang out with but who could feed my cat. Rents weren’t ridiculous so drinks were more affordable, especially if I was drinking to cover anxiety I hadn’t been diagnosed with yet. Two bottles of bubbly for $28 at Good Luck? Holy shit! Day jobs weren’t that challenging, providing plenty of time to write blog posts or stare bleakly at the screen with a hangover. Without Tinder or even NZDating.com to deliver anonymous strangers to my house, going out was the only way to try to get laid.

Looking back fondly now I feel like I’m writing the bit in Boogie Nights or some Scorsese film where everything is going up and up and will definitely never crash, oh no sir, which is a ridiculous comparison for a little website that never made any money, but yet is tied so tightly into my past two decades in Wellington that I’ve already written 700 words and haven’t got anywhere near the point yet. And I’m cringing pretty hard at all the pretentious sledging of the Hutt and other things, but hindsight is 20/20, right?

So, maybe some actual highlights of the Wellingtonista then?

We started the Wellingtonista Awards in 2006, giving readers the chance to vote for their favourite places in the city, but also for super villains and things they most wanted to see in the city. The first year of the First Annual Wellingtonista Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence, we had the awards at the recently opened Mighty Mighty, sitting around the big table. It was mostly just ‘istas themselves in attendance and the results make for some really interesting reading seeing how many of the winners are actually still around.

The next year we put it on with Public Address and Blam Blam Blam played. Way to scale up! Looking at the results, I had forgotten that Zealandia used to be called the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. I wrote a good recap of the year which I wish I’d done for the years following because it all gets a bit blurry.

We launched a bowling league, and played against Xero when they had fewer than a dozen employees. Look at them now!

By the Third Annual Wellingtonista Awards in 2008, someone even made a video which I had completely forgotten about until just now. I guess there were more smart phones by then too.  There was karaoke after the fourth awards and I don’t really even remember the fifth very much. At one stage I think we nominated Wellington City Council’s Richard McClean for the good work he did answering questions on our blog and others, but now our parasocial relationships (that word didn’t use to exist either!) go to Simone and Mollie on their social media channels.

We asked candidates questions in local elections and Kerry Prendergast was very unhappy that we cut off her answers at 25 words as we said we would do to every candidate.

We reviewed the reviews of a local restaurant critic. He decided that commenting on them at 1am was a good idea (It was not).

At one stage at least four ‘ista were also writing for FishHead magazine. Maybe five?  Dan even edited it, before it became a real estate catalogue then folded.

Our awards were fun! People got recognised for the good things they did! I got to talk to other media about it. We got to dress up! But they were also just so so so much work too, and that’s why the fifth annual ones were the last. But just the sheer amount of work wasn’t the only reason. The ‘ista itself was past its glory days, for a number of reasons.

Some reasons for less site activity

Before I go any further, I should say that Emma and Nadia and Sophie have done absolutely stellar work over the past couple of years with their theatre reviews, and I know how important those are to the theatre community and I hope they will continue! It’s just that in the past couple of years, that’s basically all that’s been posted on the site when we used to have a lot more going on.

Here are some of the obvious reasons why various people’s contributions changed: Moving away. Changing into jobs where it would be a conflict of interest. I started a clothing company as well as having a full time job. Home ownership. Changing families. James wrote some books! Changing bodies. The aging process. Falling out with me for a variety of reasons, mostly very valid (Small incestuous groups who drank too much together imploding? Who could have seen that one coming?). But also, the internet changed.

Twitter ruined blogs. It became so easy to post your thoughts at any time of the day (first via text and then via smart phones), so why would people bother with writing long format? Especially when at one stage we had 11,000 people (possibly bots) following us on there and our web stats never got up that high.

The death of Bloglines and Google Reader ruined blogs. I miss RSS so much.

Instagram ruined blogs. Ugggh, give me a thousand words over one picture any day. We stopped getting invitations to food events around the same time that influencers on Instagram started developing followers. Of course you would rather have someone who takes pretty pictures without writing anything critical and doesn’t actively hate your impact on the environment  and your other guests at your events.

Comments sections ruined blogs. Love to have 300 commentators on Stuff saying I was accusing a nice family man of child rape for saying that “Lolita Popper” was not a good name for a burger.

And my world has closed in a lot, so do I even have the right to write about a city when I’m not out there in it that much? Even before the fear of COVID and the exhaustion of Long Covid, my house is nicer than other places. There’s not normally any unnecessarily loud people here. I can control the music, I have chosen the seating to be comfortable for me. DeliverEasy brings food to me. There’s more on TV to watch than ever before and I don’t have to deal with people. I work from home a lot. I don’t seem to leave Thorndon.

Why now seems like a good time to reboot

But that’s exactly why I think I need to write more – and more importantly, encourage others to contribute too.  Well that, and six thousand other reasons, including:

  • Last time our site took off was when National was in power firing all the public servants so you know, maybe lightning could strike twice
  • The Wellingtonista mailing list, source of much joy and entertainment and content died when Twitter came to prominence. Twitter is now in its death throes.
  • We are losing so much media in this country, there are very few spaces for considered reviews to be be published. There are some writers doing great work about Wellington (Joel McManus, Erin Gourley) but then there’s also still editors who appear to be asphalt and car parts hiding beneath human flesh, such is their hatred for bike lanes and the fact that Wellington has elected Green politicians.
  • At the same time, there’s been a growth in long form writing across a whole bunch of Substacks/newsletters (Our Dan has a great one about movies) so maybe there is an appetite for more than 280 characters or a pretty photo.
  • Wellington is such a special city but it definitely has its issues – it would be nice to be able to continue to shine a light on the good things happening here.
  • Metro magazine is really really good these days and there’s still enough Auckland vs Wellington pettiness in me to want to respond.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to write one post a week. I’m challenging other people who still have a login to the site to try to do that as well. And I’m asking y’alls now – the people who’ve made it to the end – if you’d like to contribute too. There is no pay in it, but I bet you’ve got something to say about this city.

Tell us about:

– your favourite commute
– the best time you climbed that tree
– a favourite cafe that’s managed to stay alive for all these years
– your hopes and dreams for our city
Or whatever else strikes your fancy. Flick us an email at info@wellingtonista.com with your contribution, and thank you in advance for continuing to care about a nearly 20 year old website.