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Twitter user Leo Molloy (Image: Tina Tiller)
Twitter user Leo Molloy (Image: Tina Tiller)

OPINIONSocietyJanuary 25, 2024

Leo Molloy vs the city of Wellington

Twitter user Leo Molloy (Image: Tina Tiller)
Twitter user Leo Molloy (Image: Tina Tiller)

He thought he was visiting New Zealand’s capital city. Instead, the owner of Headquarters Bar took a journey through a harrowing ‘third world’ wasteland. 

Leo Molloy, owner of Headquarters Bar, failed Auckland mayoral candidate and stale lump of Play-Doh imbued with the soul of an angry wasp, spent last weekend in Wellington. To the relief of Wellingtonians everywhere, he did not like it there. 

“Spent the weekend in Welly,” he began his travelogue on X/Twitter. After landing at Wellington International Airport, Molloy was on a one-way mission into town. Presumably, he hopped on the Airport Flyer bus, which for a mere $5, took him directly to his first location: Courtenay Place. 

Molloy stumbled out of his bus. He was aghast at what he saw. The weather this weekend was bright and sunny. The footpaths were jam-packed. There were takeaway restaurants and craft beer bars with al fresco areas. A cold sweat came over him. Something had gone wrong. He was supposed to be in Wellington, but had accidentally stepped through some kind of portal and ended up somewhere far worse. 

“Courtney [sic] Place is now a third world shambles,” he wrote. Struggling to describe exactly the horrors he saw, he could only point to two cities which are definitely not part of the so-called third world. Wellington, he determined, was like “Beruit [sic] meets Dublin after the financial crash circa 2010”. 

Dublin was going through a tough time in 2010, after a sharp property bubble and economic downturn. The unemployment rate was 12.5%. The latest unemployment figures for Wellington: 3.2%. Meanwhile, Beirut in 2010 was experiencing a shaky and short-lived peace after years of civil unrest and terrorist attacks. 

Molloy took an unstable step forward. His head swirled with all the surrounding destitution. “Lots of rough sleepers down on their luck,” he noted. Also, the “bus shelters stink of urine”. These things would never happen in his beloved Auckland. 

He was lost. He searched for anything he recognised, a landmark in this wretched wasteland. Finally, he saw it: Molly Malone’s Irish Pub. He sprinted, delirious with joy, like a parched man in the desert runs to an oasis. But as he got closer, it dissolved into a mirage. Molly Malone’s had its “doors and windows shuttered,” Molloy lamented. Molly Malone’s has been closed since 2015. The building is earthquake-damaged and has been seemingly abandoned by its owner. 

Courtenay Place and/or a ‘third world’ wasteland.

Molloy took out his iPhone 5, plugged in his wired headphones, and played the saddest song of 2015 (‘See You Again’ by Wiz Khalifa ft.Charlie Puth). His day went from bad to worse. The nearby Hummingbird Eatery and Bar, owned by Newstalk ZB host Nick Mills, was closed for repairs. Then, the final nail in the coffin: a fashion boutique was having a closing down sale. (I called that store and it turns out they weren’t closing down, it was just a really good sale). 

With his discovery that unhoused people exist and two businesses from nine years ago had closed, it was clear to Molloy that there was no coming back. He shed a silent tear for Wellington. The evidence was almost as damning as when The Post’s editor Tracy Watkins decided Lambton Quay no longer deserved the moniker “golden mile” because Wishbone, the world’s worst sandwich chain, had closed down. 

Molloy knew there was only one solution. “Might be time we relocated parliament and the national museum to Auckland though as that ain’t no capital city any longer, it’s a shithole.” Wellington needed to be put out of its misery. We’ll airlift The Beehive and Te Papa to safety, and cover the rest of the city with dirt, leaving a message for the people of the future: “This place is not a place of honour… no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.” 

As he returned to the airport for his flight home to The Big A-Hole, Molloy spared it in his heart to offer one compliment to the capital: “Queen’s Wharf had a good vibe”. 

Why does Leo Molloy’s opinion of Wellington matter? It doesn’t. Not one iota. Leo Molloy is an unoriginal man with no ideas of his own, who has confused his own inane rambling for provocative insight. But Molloy’s lack of originality is exactly what makes his complaints notable. 

Declaring Wellington dead or dying has been the easiest op-ed in New Zealand journalism for the past few years. But at least those pieces mostly focused on problems and solutions, written by people who genuinely want the city to succeed. 

Lately, though, it feels like things have taken a different turn. Wellington is being dragged into a culture war it never asked to be a part of. Right-wing media figures are jumping at the chance to declare Wellington a ghost town, a war zone, or a third world country, with no attempt to engage with the underlying issues the city faces or interest in solving them. 

Molloy out front of the main entrance to Headquarters (image: Tina Tiller)

Criticising Wellington has become popular because it’s a lazy shorthand for criticising the kinds of people who live there: Progressives, urban liberals, oat-milk-latte-drinking hipsters, whatever descriptor you like best. The people who elected a Green mayor and two Green MPs. If bad things happen in Wellington, the logic goes, it proves left-wing politics is a failed philosophy (even if it has nothing to do with the actual problem). 

The same phenomenon is common in the United States, where Fox News and its cohort spend an outsized amount of time focused on cities like San Francisco and Chicago, convincing their viewers to be terrified of places they have never been

Wellington is a city with problems. Transport, housing, and earthquakes that left buildings damaged and pipes cracked. Wellingtonians shouldn’t shy away from those issues. But we should be wary of bad faith criticism from people like Molloy who just want to see this city fail. And a quick note to Leo, whose ego is too big not to be reading this: Come back to Wellington and check out Courtenay Place once the Golden Mile upgrade is done. You’ll like it. I’ll buy you a pint. 

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