Wellington Scoop

The shrinking Music Hub


by Lindsay Shelton
Strange that a council employee is pretending it’s only a “hiccup” that Victoria University has pulled out of the plan to use the Municipal Office Building for teaching and administrative rooms for the proposed Music Hub.

The university has decided not to buy the building, which is next to the Town Hall. This is a serious setback for the Music Hub plan.

The DomPost reports that university vice-chancellor Grant Guildford has this explanation of why the university won’t buy the huilding, as had been intended:

“The impacts of [the 2016 Kaikoura] earthquake on buildings on reclaimed land such as Civic Square poses new design and cost issues which we need to better understand, as well as other related considerations such as what happens to the neighbouring Civic Administration Building.”

Without teaching rooms, the Music Hub faces a diminished future. It was announced by the city council in 2014, as a partnership with the NZSO and the university. The NZSO was an enthusiastic partner from the start. But the university was not willing to make a definite commitment.

When Athfield Architects were hired in 2015 to produce concept plans, the university was still uncertain. Its Pro Vice-Chancellor of Humanities and Social Sciences Professor Jennifer Windsor said:

“Victoria University is delighted to be working with Athfield Architects to explore the potential of this site. The concept designs will be pivotal as we explore the feasibility of partnering with Wellington to create a renewed vision of education, music and creative arts excellence for the benefit of the entire community.”

It wasn’t till last May that Victoria confirmed participation – but only for the first stage of the plan – strengthening and reopening the Town Hall:

The redevelopment and fit out of the Town Hall’s main auditorium, the Debating Chamber and Ilott Room to provide central city rehearsal and performance spaces for Victoria’s New Zealand School of Music and the NZSO.

It held back from committing to the second stage (buying the council building), which was intended to a key part of

a nationally significant centre of musical excellence taking in adjoining buildings to provide teaching and administrative space in the Municipal Office Building, creating a central city home for the NZSM and NZSO.

The university launched a fund-raising campaign led by Kerry Prendergast for stage two, but no one is saying how much money has been raised. With or without the $30million that was the target, the university has decided that the second stage is too costly, and the condition of the council building is too uncertain.

Without teaching and administrative space, the university’s music students will have to divide their time between the existing buildings in Kelburn, and the rehearsal and performance spaces in the Town Hall. As a result, the Music Hub will be much diminished.

The Council’s Ian Pike (who must be regretting that he used the word “hiccup”) is however remaining hopeful, saying:

All options for the Municipal Office Building remain on the table and could involve working with the university but selling it to an independent, third party …

Council staff are still working in the office building, but they’re expected to move out when work on the Town Hall (which is still on schedule for reopening in 2021) starts this year. It’ll then become another empty building on Civic Square.

And as the university’s vice-chancellor mentioned, another problem is the adjacent Civic Administration Building, closed since the Kaikoura earthquake and likely to be demolished. Not an encouraging environment for a music school.

When city councillors return from their summer holidays, they face major issues for the new year. Not only the collapse of half of the Music School proposal. But also the likelihood that the $150million Movie Museum will not be going ahead, because of the failure to reach agreement with Peter Jackson.

It seems that the empty space opposite Te Papa will stay empty. And not one but two council buildings alongside Civic Square will be empty as well.


  1. Rumpole, 8. January 2018, 23:54

    Ian Pike’s suggestion to sell the Municipal Building to a third party is most unhelpful. Strategic Council property is not his to give away. Ownership of all Civic Square buildings must remain with the City Council. To do otherwise will keep the Courts busy.

  2. Traveller, 9. January 2018, 8:56

    It seems that the Wellington City Council may have lost control of two of its biggest projects.

  3. CC, 9. January 2018, 9:07

    Does Willis Bond want the Municipal Building to add to its waterfront property portfolio?

  4. City Lad, 9. January 2018, 11:38

    Willis Bond is the council’s preferred developer for the Michael Fowler site. Another commercial honeymoon just like the waterfront.

  5. Loss Leader, 9. January 2018, 11:44

    So this is holiday news? Council hoping no one will see it? So what’s new??
    These are civic buildings. The land and buildings are owned by the people of Wellington. They are not there to just fund Council botchups.

    What a mess is being made of Wellington’s key heritage site and buildings.
    So civic centre buildings are on reclaimed land!! Really! Most of the CBD is on reclaimed land.
    This is all outrageous!

  6. Sarah Huckleberry, 9. January 2018, 11:52

    This is a monumental Council scandal. Is this why the Council intends not to publicly advertise its new resource consent application for the Town Hall but instead simply grant it to itself. The public has every right to scrutinise it and make comment. Does it include these buildings for example?

    Mayor and Councillors: are you really representing us, or frolicking in the waves of Hawaii?

  7. Michael Gibson, 9. January 2018, 12:10

    No, CC, it suits developers much more to leave ownership with us, the ratepayers, then lease properties from WCC for 125 years for virtually nothing.

  8. Jonny Utzone, 9. January 2018, 21:55

    I guess Vic Uni is busy making plans to refurbish Gordon Wilson Flats and make its required 6% return on capital.

  9. Tony Jansen, 12. January 2018, 12:03

    Years ago Bob Jones published a book that was entirely made up of blank pages to lampoon the then Labour government’s “achievements”. The time is right to do the same for the current Wellington City Council.
    Just what actually have they achieved at the halfway mark of this triennial?
    We have sewage and water pipes that are 135 years old, Molesworth Street which looks like a scene form a developing nation having been dug up for years on end and still more to come, big-ticket glamour projects falling over like tenpins because the council including the CEO could not and would not negotiate by the book in an open manner. Sweetheart deals for pet property developers, a CEO who cannot use Email and prefers to leave no paper trail for the deals he signs off on. Oh and a University that is clueless as to how to be a good citizen in our city…..what next?
    Meanwhile the council are beginning to sell off social housing!!
    How about selling off our stake in Wellington Airport which we should not be involved in owning (nor paying for Infratil’s ridiculous expansion plans)and using this money to improve and increase the housing stock in the city (without giving sweetheart deals to private developers)? We could also direct money saved from the outrageously over priced Movie Museum/Convention Centre project to upgrading all the infrastructure in the city – in particular the sewage and water pipes and drains. With ever increasing and worsening climate events, this I would have thought albeit unsexy, is an absolute priority?

  10. Michael Gibson, 13. January 2018, 7:17

    Actually I think our having a stake in Wellington Airport is quite a good thing. What is wrong is that the Airport company is looking for separate ratepayers’ funds for its absurd plans for “expansion”. What is even more wrong is our having a misguided and inexperienced person as our nominated director on the Airport Board, but I don’t know who this is at the moment.

  11. michael, 16. January 2018, 13:15

    If the council expect others to reside there, what is wrong with properly strengthening the Municipal Building and the council returning to Civic Square?
    I find it hard not to believe this is really all about a council agenda to build themselves a new building, and using any excuse to be able to do this.
    It is time the council got on with sorting out the existing problems with our infrastructure and the like, instead of creating new problems in the name of progress.

  12. Mavis, 17. January 2018, 17:20

    Someone (i.e.mayor and Council) needs to pull the plug on City Shapers – that little enclave in the Wellington City Council dedicated to privatising public property – land and buildings, currently and especially in the Civic Centre, headed by Ian Pike who supported a Hilton Hotel on our waterfront, and lost in an expensive Court case. Whose agenda is this? The mayor’s? Councillors’? CEO Lavery’s? Ian Pike’s? Developers looking for cheap public assets?

    First step – shut down City Shapers. Next step – carry out long overdue maintenance to ensure that the Civic Centre is retained as the primo civic and heritage centre that it ought to be. Does the mayor care? Do any councillors care?

  13. CC, 17. January 2018, 20:20

    Mavis – it wouldn’t be so bad if the Hilton was the only legal case that the ratepayers had lost money on. There was the multi-million debt from Wellington Waterfront Ltd deals prior to being taken ‘in-house’ under CWB’s Mayoralty. Since then there have been more than a few others, up to and including the movie museum/conference centre project that has upset Peter Jackson with an uncontested tender among the issues he has raised. The drain of costs now includes the upcoming Frank Kitts Park case which is draining the city coffers to the tune of FOUR lawyers, two for the Council and two for its deal-maker employee.

  14. Mavis, 18. January 2018, 16:21

    CC: Are you saying that councillors are repeatedly subverting the transparent democratic process to use ratepayers’ funds to fight those same ratepayers in a Court…over and over again? It seems so. That’s very wrong.

    Which councillors are going to stand up to be counted to prevent privatising the public’s Civic Centre land and buildings? (Cf. Ian Pike waterfront land and buildings)

    Too cosy? Too comfortable? Don’t care? That’s very wrong.

  15. CC, 18. January 2018, 19:56

    Mavis – this article might be instructive. Who makes the secret deals that councillors are not appraised of? How come the District Plan has no relevance in Willis Bond deals unless the Environment Court becomes involved? Would Peter Jackson have been more accommodating of the movie museum/conference centre deal if there had been an open tender rather than the Willis Bond/L.T. McGuinness deal. How was the Cable/Wakefield site acquired, when Mark Dunajtschik couldn’t get it for his proposed conference centre project? So many questions, so few Councillors with answers.


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