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To toot or not to toot


Near the end of January, Wellington Live made a post asking Wellingtonians a simple question; to toot or not to toot? The post was met with an overwhelming reception, garnering over 11 thousand comments with the majority responding ‘yes’ to tooting in the tunnel. But, there were some who disagreed and found it rather annoying – most of them being courteous to pedestrians.

For a little context, ‘to toot or not to toot’ is in reference to the question; do you toot your car horn in the Mount Victoria Tunnel? Anyone who lives in Wellington knows that when you pass through the Mount Vic tunnel you always toot your horn. It’s a simple act but it’s something fun to do and it’s something that is unique to Wellington. But why and when did the tooting start? Because for most of us it’s just an age-old thing.


The ‘when’ is unknown, although as for the ‘why’, well rumour has it the tooting started as a tribute to a teenage girl who was murdered in 1931. Phillis Avis Symons, 17, was buried alive by her lover George Erral Coats, 30, at the construction site of the now Mount Victoria Tunnel. She was since excavated and laid to rest at the Karori cemetery. It’s not common knowledge unless you really researched it, but this is a possible reason for why it is such a tradition here in Wellington.

Amongst the overwhelming response to Wellington Live’s post was a majority of people who were all for it, but there are some who aren’t. The reasons were out of consideration to people who walk or bike through the tunnel. So at what point do we abandon a Wellington tradition to be considerate to the minority? Well in 2019, ex-councilman Chris Calvi-Freeman lobbied for a ban on tooting in the tunnel because it annoyed pedestrians, but you can guess how that went.


When you have an issue I think you are always going to have two sides; those who agree and those who don’t. To be honest, they’re not wrong that the honking can be loud for those walking through but then again, this is something that has been going on in Wellington for 70+ years. It is a tradition and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Something as basic as tooting your horn in a tunnel is a contributor to Wellington’s quirky style and it’s one of those things that makes Wellington unique. I doubt you could hear that anywhere else and have people get a kick out of it. It has also made its way onto a popular TV series – Wellington Paranormal – who featured an episode where they referenced complaints made about the tooting in the Mt Victoria tunnel. It is very famous in Wellington, and we do like to laugh about it.