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Town Hall strengthening costs go up to $112m – it’ll take 4 years

Wellington Town Hall strengthening project [1]

The budget for strengthening the Wellington Town Hall has gone up from $90m to $112m.

This compares with $152m spent by Christchurch to strengthen and restore its Town Hall – a job that has already been completed.

The City Council chief executive Kevin Lavery called a media briefing this afternoon to announce the increased costs in Wellington. He said Naylor Love [2] have been chosen, from five bidders, as the preferred tenderer.

Councillors will vote next week on whether to accept the increased budget. The work is no longer scheduled for completion in 2021. Today’s briefing was told that the project will take four years and 2023 will be the year when the Town Hall reopens – ten years after it was closed.

News from WCC
The Chief Executive of Wellington City Council Kevin Lavery will be asking Councillors to approve additional funding for strengthening the Wellington Town Hall when they meet on 27 February.

This revised costing and recommendation comes after he requested more detailed testing and investigations which have taken place over the last 18 months.

Estimated costs for the project have increased to $112 million, plus contingency, mainly because of the complexity of the project and the busy construction market.

Kevin Lavery said: “We are excited to press the go button for the Town Hall. Once complete, the Town Hall will be a world-class musical venue with improved rehearsal and performance space. It will be a base for civic and community events and will be part of a centre of musical excellence for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī.

“This has always been a challenging project. We will be retro-fitting base isolators and new foundations to a 114 year old building sitting on reclaimed land with 60 metres to the bedrock. Much of the work will be below the water table. This was never a project for the faint-hearted.

“After a competitive process involving five construction companies, Naylor Love has been selected as the preferred tenderer. The tender price combined with other direct costs is $112.4m and the project will take four years. There is no question that this is one of the most complex re-strengthening, restoration and refurbishment projects undertaken in recent times in New Zealand. Aspects of the tender price could increase due to construction unknowns, so Council will be asked to approve a contingency to cover these risks,” he says.

PwC were asked to undertake an independent review of the Town Hall procurement project. Richard Chung, a partner, PwC said: “The Council’s procurement process has been thorough and robust. Council have assembled an experienced in-house team and have used a range of seasoned external experts. The price reflects the complexity of a major heritage project, the underground works, the four year timescale and the capacity constraints in today’s construction market. We have suggested some areas where risk and contingency management can be sharpened as the project moves forward.”

Under earthquake legislation, the Town Hall has to be either demolished or in the process of being strengthened by the end of 2019. Demolishing the Town Hall is not an option because of its heritage status.

The DomPost quotes mayor Justin Lester [3] as saying councillors will have all the information before them when they vote next week.

“There are now three available options: do the work and secure the building’s long-term future, leave it there, or demolish it. The last two options are problematic. My view currently is that Wellingtonians want us to get on with it. It will only become more expensive in the future and the Town Hall is an important part of our city.”

The Town Hall has been closed, as a quake risk, since 2013, and councillors have already voted unanimously three times [4] to strengthen it.

VIC and WCC Signing Ceremony on Auditorium Stage in Wellington Town Hall [5]

Last October, as part of plans for a national music school, the council signed a “binding agreement” [6] with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Victoria University’s School of Music to strengthen the building to make it a centre for civic events and the heart of a unique centre of musical and creative excellence, education, cultural connections and community engagement.