Wellington Scoop

Auckland professor to lead expert group to plan “right way forward” for Central Library


News from WCC
The Wellington City Council is pleased to announce that Professor Ken Elwood, Faculty of Engineering, the University of Auckland, has agreed to lead the process of facilitating a group of construction and engineering industry experts in finding the right way forward for the Central Library building.

Chief Executive Kevin Lavery said he’s extremely happy to have Professor Elwood on the project as an independent specialist. “His considerable expertise will be invaluable in helping the Council continue to gather and consider the wide variety of industry perspectives on the Library’s structural vulnerabilities.

“The challenges are complex and we need to fully understand these so that we can find the right solution for the future of this prominent Wellington building.”

Professor Elwood also serves as the Research Director of QuakeCoRE: NZ Centre for Earthquake Resilience and is actively involved in research related to the seismic response of existing concrete and masonry buildings.

He spent 11 years on the faculty at the University of British Columbia, Canada, and is also a member of several national and international code committees including the seismic provisions of the American Concrete Institute Building Code (ACI 318) and the Board of Directors of the International Association for Earthquake Engineering (IAEE). He is currently working on the BRANZ/EQC/ConcreteNZ-funded project to develop and validate retrofit solutions for precast floors.

The Council made its decision to close the Central Library on 19 March to protect the safety of customers and staff following the findings of an engineering report it commissioned from Aurecon Engineering. The report was reviewed and the findings confirmed by WSP OPUS in May. The report found the building had structural vulnerabilities which meant it may not perform well in the event of a significant earthquake.

Professor Elwood will be working to plan the stages of an inclusive process where industry experts can join with the Council to explore the findings of the report and help identify the ideas and themes presented. The group will be encouraged to give their views in relation to finding potential remedial engineering and construction solutions.

The Council and Professor Elwood will then be able to scope the potential remedial options for the Library including indicative costs. There will most likely be a further peer review of this advice which will ultimately inform a report back to the Council. Mr Lavery said the process must be rigorous and thorough, and is expected to take two to three months.

Library services remain open for business in the central city. Since opening on 28 May, Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre has seen more than 33,000 visitors who have recorded a 92 percent satisfaction rate. The Council is finalising leases on the two remaining CBD sites and is on track to have them opening later this year.


  1. Guy M, 31. July 2019, 17:34

    This is a good step forward into solving the issue of the Library. Prof Elwood is a respected member of the Engineering community, and with his expertise in QuakeCore, he sounds like an ideal external consultant to bring on board and scope out the possible remedies and give an idea of probable costs.

    Obviously Prof Elwood will be seeking input from the Engineering specialists – many of whom are at the sharp and pointy end of practising the art of quake-proofing buildings here in Wellington, but also fellow specialists from both the Canterbury and Auckland Schools of Engineering, as well as construction industry professionals. What would also be really good to hear is if Prof Elwood is also going to include representatives from the Architectural community as well.

    The lack of Architects on the Canterbury emergency evaluation and reconstruction teams in Christchurch was one of the greatest failings of the Canterbury quakes. Down there, it was a tale of Engineers only – and many fine buildings that could have been saved, were lost, based on purely pragmatic engineering and cost related issues: history, heritage and sentiment held no sway and the bulldozers moved swiftly in. If the last month or two has shown us anything in Wellington, it is that the general public and the architectural community also feel very strongly for the continuance of the Wellington Public Library. We need Architect specialists on this inquiry too, in my humble opinion…

  2. Ms Green, 31. July 2019, 22:08

    I am puzzled. This gentleman might be esteemed and the CEO says he is extremely happy, but how many more reports and guidelines and standards do we need? There have already been the two mentioned here by Aurecon and Opus and many before them written by Council officers and experts. Then there are to be a further three reports which the Professor and his group will produce?

    It would be helpful if Mr Lavery could outline:
    The Terms of Reference for Professor Elwood’s project(s)
    His terms of engagement
    The cost of his engagement
    The exact expected timeline for his reporting back.

  3. Mathew Biars, 1. August 2019, 5:54

    The library was undamaged in the big earthquake and so should not have been closed.

  4. Andrew S, 1. August 2019, 9:14

    More delay tactics.

  5. michael, 1. August 2019, 9:28

    Just another delaying tactic. WCC really seems to be reluctant to to make serious decisions. WCC must spend a small fortune on reports which they don’t seem to take any notice of.

  6. Concerned Wellingtonian, 1. August 2019, 9:52

    Can we get somebody from Auckland to report on the money lost by having vanity Convention Centres please?
    It doesn’t have to be an expert to report on this one.

  7. Pamela Dennis, 1. August 2019, 16:39

    Lavery should be able to make a decision without getting more and more “consultants”.

  8. Guy M, 1. August 2019, 19:30

    Pamela, re your comment “Lavery should be able to make a decision without getting more and more “consultants”.” Respectfully, I disagree.

    Any project like this is going to be a delicate and tricky project, and needs to be properly thought out at the outset, rather than rushed into. It is far easier to change things on paper than it is when they are actually on site – and way cheaper too. Lavery is a admin person, not a registered architect or a chartered structural engineer. He is doing the right thing – getting somebody who knows what he is talking about (Prof Elwood), to undertake the research and write a report on what the best approach is. The last thing any city needs is some politician sticking their nose in and agreeing to things when they are not properly informed.

    The comments from the esteemed Ms Green are also, as always, very succinct. Good list of queries, which Mr Lavery should be forthcoming with. No reason not to. I’d hazard a guess and say that this report will be a lot more thorough than the Aurecon report or Opus report. If they were the small reports only a few pages long, released to the public a month or two ago, then yes, this Elwood report will be a helluva lot more authoritative and give us a real way forward.

  9. Harry Welsford, 4. August 2019, 11:34

    You can tell it’s not “unsafe” when you see the flimsy temporary 6ft fence put around it. A supposed risk of total collapse. Yeah right, and people sent into it by the Council to get books.