Wellington Scoop

Strengthening the Central Library – could cost $96m or $205m

Wellington city councillors were told today that that strengthening and redeveloping the Central Library would cost from $96 million to $205 million. The figures are given in a council press release which otherwise provides no details of the huge difference in cost.

News from WCC
Options for returning Te Ngākau Civic Precinct to being a resilient, lively and distinctly Wellington heart of the city will be discussed by the Mayor and Councillors on Wednesday 25 March.

“For over 100 years Te Ngākau Civic Precinct has been the strong cultural and civic heart to our city,” Mayor Andy Foster says.

“Unfortunately over the past decade the Precinct has suffered the combined effects of earthquakes in 2013 and 2016; aging and inflexible support services, and the relocation of key services following the closure of some locations, including our much-loved Central Library.

“Today elected members attended a pre-briefing on options and recommendations for developing Te Ngākau Civic Precinct. This included the future Precinct spatial plan, future central city library services and an update on the Central Library building itself.”

The briefing also covered the required processes for how the Council redevelops and enhances Te Ngākau Civic Precinct, how to deliver a modern refreshed central library service and the engineering and cost estimates for the Central Library building itself.

“What is clear is any investment decision needs to focus on providing highly-resilient options for the long term, which aligns with other key initiatives such as Planning for Growth and Let’s Get Wellington Moving,” Mayor Foster says.

“It also needs to be cognisant of long-term sea level rise issues. This way we will protect and enhance Te Ngākau Civic Precinct as a place where people can meet to socialise, enjoy the arts and culture, and access a range of services.

“Wellingtonians have told us they want Te Ngākau Civic Precinct brought back to life, and that’s what we’re working towards. It will be really challenging but there are huge opportunities for all of us to creatively rethink the heart of our city. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, for example to better activate and link the space to the buildings and streets around it.

“In all of this we’re deeply conscious of the costs associated with this work. Options for strengthening and redeveloping the Central Library alone range from $96 million to $205 million (for a highly resilient scheme). In addition to the structural work, the figures include building services and fit out upgrades that are required. Costs for a new build were also provided for the sake of comparison and context, and these cost comparisons were based on a highly-resilient build option – ones that would survive an earthquake and still be operable.

“We’re also conscious of the economic impact of the COVID-19 on our city and the people who work here. How we balance this will be the focus of discussions at the Council meeting on Wednesday 25 March.

“There is a long way to go on these issues and there will be opportunity for the public to have their say on these issues including formal public consultation, towards the middle of the year. In the meantime people can give any thoughts to their Councillors.

The briefing report will be published on the Wellington City Council website on Friday 20 March.


  1. Hel, 17. March 2020, 18:54

    Something doesn’t compute. The library was closed supposedly because of issues with the hollow core floors, or something like that. Now we have a bill of $96m at the low end which includes “services and some upgrades”. What about just telling us how much it will cost to strengthen and reopen the library.

  2. Traveller, 17. March 2020, 19:09

    Beware: there are people around who will argue that the Library should never be reinstated. They say Google or the suburban libraries are all we need.

  3. MrSneaky, 17. March 2020, 19:09

    Ha! Let’s slip this through when everyone’s distracted with the virus & save some pennies. They’ll take the cheap option or the “oh-so-reasonable” middle one that will give us a crap Library.
    What’s that quote? “Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries.” and we’re coming up on a dire period for the community. I hope they make the right decision for our city’s future. Maybe get the RNZ Concert saving group on this one (but I guess they can afford their own books & internet).

  4. Ben, 17. March 2020, 19:28

    So $205m, really.

  5. Casey, 17. March 2020, 20:09

    Stick a bulldozer through the library and the administration building, neither of which are fit, construction wise, for an earthquake zone. Grass the areas and return the town square ambience we once had. Repurpose the design of the convention centre into the new central library and save $200million. Not too late to abandon the crass convention centre construction which should never have been approved in the first place. Convention centres belong to the past, not the future.

  6. K, 18. March 2020, 9:33

    Interesting idea Casey – I think I like your plan! At the very least the empty ground floor “exhibition” space of the convention centre could become the new permanent library.

    Yes libraries are useful, but they are not so important that we should be spending hundreds of millions on new ones or repairing old ones in 2020, when there are other vital uses for that amount of cash.

  7. Banjo string, 18. March 2020, 10:32

    I tend to agree with you Casey. If the convention centre cannot be stopped it should be turned into the new library instead and the council admin in the upper floors. Forget fixing the old one if we go down this road. The world will not be travelling for conferences for a long time now and we don’t need this albatross around rate payers necks.

  8. michael, 18. March 2020, 12:34

    Over a year ago, leading seismic engineer Adam Thornton explained to a packed public meeting how the library could be fixed relatively quickly and easily, but it has become clear the council have another agenda. There was nothing wrong with the library as it was – the most popular and well used building in Wellington. Just fix the damn floors and reopen it. If they want to change things then do that when they have fixed the infrastructure!
    Then turn the $200 million convention centre into affordable apartment housing

  9. Tony Jansen, 18. March 2020, 16:12

    Firstly the existing library is an Athfield design. You can’t just say let’s bulldoze it. Secondly the Convention Centre was a secret untendered deal between the Council and a pet developer. Once Peter Jackson pulled the plug, it had no business case whatsoever. It also had no ground tenant i.e. no fixed source of income. Councillors voted unanimously to go ahead with it. Why?
    I think the Mayor and councillors are indulging in a bit of “Disaster Capitalism” here. Using current crises to ramp up rates and push through long held agendas. We can see the same scenario playing out with Wellington Water.
    I’d suggest we all boycott any rates increase. They have mismanaged our money for years and taken no responsibility whatsoever. Let’s tell them we want all non essential projects halted. The money and labour should be redirected to fixing the library, fixing our water infrastructure and then giving us a revamped Civic Square so we have the heart of the city back with the people.

  10. Kendra, 12. May 2020, 19:15

    It is shameful after all this time that nothing has been done and we are still without a library. Wellington caters poorly to families because everything costs. The library is one of the few but vital places families can go that is affordable and fun. It is such a vital resource in teaching kids to love books. Please listen to the community and act urgently to get our central library moving!