So where do you stand on the Wellywood sign?

The town is awash with debate about the Wellywood sign.  It's becoming a defining political issue. The "progressives", those who support economic development are broadly in favour.  The greenie left are rallying behind the green(ish) mayor against the sign.

Underneath the political dimension there is the creative debate - which is where the issue started until it transformed into a left-right issue. 

A problem for the "progressives" is that the sign is derivative. It can be seen as copy cat, try hard and unattractive. There is some validity in that criticism at an aesthetic level. Not everyone in Hollywood thinks the sign there is great either, and close up it is quite ugly. But it does define the town. It is a clear statement of what happens, and so, it is argued, is a sign saying Wellywood.

The problem for the greenie-left brigade is that they have nothing better to offer, and they risk looking like a bunch of unimaginative boring social reactionaries who are against anything that might disturb the karma of the city and their own insular lives.

A colleague who is well connected to the business and power elite remarked to me this week: "don't they realise that their beloved city is shrinking all around them. We are simply not progressing and we need to do something."

A city that is shrinking economically is not a  problem for those who are opposed to growth. I am not, but I am reluctant to be forced into the pro sign group simply because I like and want growth.

I am with the editor of the Lonely Planet Guide, one Errol Hunt, who said in the DominionPost that he was "torn" on the idea of a Wellywood sign, seeing it as partly bold, and partly cringe-worthy.

"On one hand, it's a bit cheeky, a bit quirky, which does feel right. On the other hand, the tryhard-o-meter is beeping furiously."

"Does it make Wellington cooler? No. Does it make Wellington any less cool? Probably not, unless people rip themselves about it. It's just a sign," he said.

He's right. We are ripping ourselves about it. Ripping, scouring, whipping, flagellating, doing mental bondage drills, talking about defacing, burning and wrecking the sign, hating the airport company and a whole manner of other behaviours.

Get a life. It's a sign: large, obtrusive and highly visible. Indeed. Portraying what we are, in a strong and graphic manner, so it will get noticed? Again yes.

What this controversy really says about us is that we do not have a shared view about the direction the city should take. That is the real tragedy. It has taken a row about a sign to expose the weakness of the council's economic development strategy, the divisions in public opinion and the lack of agreement about if and how we are to move ahead.

If we recognize, address, and seek to resolve those issues, some good may come out of this matter, whatever finally happens about the sign itself.