Busking Boom in Wellington

Boom of buskers in Wellington
Last updated 12:42, January 9 2015
[ Dom Post Story with video ]

Busking is at an all time high on Wellington’s Cuba Street as the fine weather draws large crowds.

There’s a busker boom happening in Wellington’s central city – provided they don’t eat fire.

The capital is seeing a surge in buskers, with a 36 per cent jump in the number of licences issued. In the last three months of 2013 there were 140 licences issued, but that went up to 190 for the same period last year.

But while there may be more licences the Wellington City Council is also considering a crackdown on performances, with 30 complaints in the same period.

Council spokesman Richard MacLean said it was unclear what had sparked the surge in licences, but summer was typically the busiest time for buskers.

“We can only speculate – some would say it’s a sign of an improving local economy and the fact that people are feeling more generous. We’re also hoping against hope that it’s not influenced by the rise of trashy TV talent shows, because anecdotally the quality of the busking is highly variable.”

The council had also worked to stop fire acts in Cuba St after receiving a spate of complaints about the smell of smoke and kerosene. Now, the council would be reviewing the rules around busking, especially since there was no onus on buskers to get a licence, given they were free and there is no punishment for performing without one.

Councillor Paul Eagle, who heads the community, sport and recreation committee said the matter was likely to be looked at next month.

“The guidelines are weak and they need some attention.”

There needed to be a compromise between “having a vibrant city and having a city that’s good for retail and business”, he said.

Capital Performing Arts president Christine Strang said busking added to the “cultural flavour of a city” and it was a popular way for musicians to find audiences.

“You get to play for people . . . They just like to be able to play and it’s a bit more exciting to be able to play on the street than in your own lounge.”

Local instrumental guitarist Lukas Jury, 21, has been busking on Cuba St for a couple of years. He hadn’t noticed it being busier this year, but said busking was seasonal.

“Summer is a good time to busk.”

Wellington, in particular Cuba St, was a good place to busk in, he said.

“You get a lot more people watching.”

Fire eater Andy Pelcher, AKA Firefly, from Vermont in the US said he understood the council’s concerns about fire performance, but using different fuels to kerosene – such as lamp oil – would be one way to reduce smoke.

He is in New Zealand with magician Simone Al Ani. They were both enjoying busking on Cuba St, but the audiences were different here, Al Ani said.

“They want to see things very fast.”


People wanting to busk in Wellington are required to apply to the city council for a licence. The process is free and there is no penalty for performing without a licence.

Performance can take place from 7am to 9pm in any public place, with an extension to 3am for Courtenay Place, Cuba St and the Railway Station.

Noise must be kept to “reasonable background noise” when heard from 30m away.

Sound performance, which involve a musical instrument, amplifier, loud voices, more than four voices, or any noise-making object, can last 60 minutes, with a further 90 minutes allowed for setting up and packing up.

“Walk-by” acts that aren’t likely to draw crowds can be performed at any time.

“Circle” acts, where crowds gather and often participate, must be kept to 20-40 minutes.

– The Dominion Post

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