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Wellington mayor says no intention to broadcast call to prayer five time a day

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Mar 2024, 2:44pm

Wellington mayor says no intention to broadcast call to prayer five time a day

Author
NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 25 Mar 2024, 2:44pm

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau says a review of noise limits in the capital was never intended to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer from loudspeakers five times a day.

Whanau introduced an amendment during recent District Plan discussions to review noise limits for music venues and prayer calls.

One change the mayor wants council staff to investigate is whether calls to prayer should be allowed to be broadcast from loudspeakers on mosques and other religious buildings.

Whanau was asked about the amendment during an interview with Newstalk ZB’s Wellington Mornings host Nick Mills today.

She said she wanted council officers to go away and look at volume control for music and religious purposes.

“There’s no set decision yet, we still have to do the work and that’s something I support. I’m all for noise in the city centre.”

Whanau said the current system doesn’t work for those she’s spoken to.

“When you talk to people like Save Our Venues and independent venues they feel restricted by current noise levels, they can’t bring in the acts they want to play gigs. That’s why we’re looking at it.”

Whanau was asked why mosques need speakers on the outside of their buildings to broadcast the call to prayer.

“The purpose of that amendment is for events like March 15, or one-off events, we can commemorate the events that happened on that day and mosques won’t have a noise restriction, much like church bells.”

Mills said there was some commentary about mosques wanting to broadcast the call to prayer five times a day from loudspeakers, but Whanau said that was not the intention of her amendment.

When asked specifically if such a request would be reasonable, Whanau said “probably not”.

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau speaks to Newstalk ZB's Wellington Mornings host Nick Mills. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau speaks to Newstalk ZB's Wellington Mornings host Nick Mills. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

Mayor says council asked Reading owners not to speak on controversial deal

Whanau was also asked about the latest on the controversial Reading Cinema deal, with the mayor revealing the multi-national’s owners wanted to front on it but officials advised them “not yet”.

Last month councillors agreed to buy the land beneath the quake-prone cinema complex on Courtenay Place for $32 million. Reading will use that money to redevelop the building, which has been shut since 2019 because of its earthquake risk.

The intention is to encourage Reading International to reopen the building sooner rather than later and stop it being an eyesore in the heart of the city.

Critics have described the deal as corporate welfare, and questioned why ratepayers should be bankrolling a multi-national company.

The Reading Cinema building on Courtenay Place, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Reading Cinema building on Courtenay Place, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

There have been calls for sisters Margaret Cotter, chairwoman of the Reading board, and Ellen Cotter, chief executive officer, to front on the deal and reveal their plans for the future of the site.

Requests from the Herald and other media outlets to interview the pair have gone unanswered.

Whanau was asked about Reading’s public silence on the deal today, with Mills questioning whether she was concerned the company “won’t even talk to us Wellingtonians at all, they’ve refused to comment on everything”.

Whanau responded immediately saying that wasn’t because the company didn’t want to.

“No they’ve offered to, but we felt given the sense of people, how they felt, you know the discussion around multi-nationals, we’ve said look just let us deal with this for now. When we’re ready we’ll sing from the rooftops.

“They want to be positive and proactive about this, we’ve just asked them - not yet.”

The Herald has contacted the mayor’s office for clarification on exactly what Reading had offered to say to the people of Wellington, and when they made the offer.

Whanau said the deal was still not signed off but she remained “100 per cent” committed to it.

She said the initial $6m had not been handed over as the council wanted to make sure it was legally protected first should anything go wrong.

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