Wellington Scoop

Plan for “expedited” decisions to save the Central Library

A number of new recommendations to speed-up decision-making on the Central Library building are to be considered by the Wellington City Council at its meeting on Wednesday. The proposals aim to enable the council to make a final decision on the Library before the end of the year.

The recommendations are now on the council website, with the statement that council staff are of the opinion that the proposed process is robust and defendable, and meets the requirements of the Local Government Act.

One of the proposals would ensure that finance for the building would be available in the 2022 financial year.

The document acknowledges “a desire from councillors and the community to expedite a decision on the Central Library building, (including the accommodation of central library services), and undertake the required construction work as soon as is possible.”

The council reports:

In the updated recommendations worked on by Chief Executive Barbara McKerrow and her team since last week’s decision to postpone the debate, one proposal is to spend $2 million to fast-track design options. It is recommended that this additional capital expenditure be included in the 2020-21 Annual Plan to advance design on the library building in order to speed up decision-making and the implementation of an agreed solution.

It is also proposed that that $1.1 million of operational expenditure already allocated in the Annual Plan for Te Ngākau Civic Precinct design and consultancy will be used in part to produce designs for the library building and improved connections with Civic Square.

The updated recommendations propose an ‘expedited’ decision-making process including consideration of community views and other legal requirements under the Local Government Act. The process would allow for a preferred solution to be determined later in the year with funding to be incorporated in the 2021-31 Long-term Plan.

The council paper also states, cautiously:

This work, applied to the current library building, does not presuppose any particular outcomes from the public engagement or decision making process. If an accommodation solution is chosen that does not involve the current building, most of this design work will not be applicable. However, in the opinion of officers, advancing the design work at this time represents a marginal cost risk with respect to the entire project and the potential upside will speed up overall project timeframes if the current building is retained in some form.

The Central Library has been closed since March 2019. It is not earthquake-damaged; however other buildings of similar construction were badly damaged in the Seddon and Kaikoura quakes. The library was re-assessed after a change to the Government’s seismic performance assessment criteria guidelines for buildings. A decision was made to close the building, including the public car park and the footpath around the library, due to potential risk to the thousands of people who used the building every day.


  1. Northland, 1. June 2020, 23:30

    This highlights the glacial pace at which the Council operates. I think they may be hoping that if they prevaricate long enough, another earthquake will occur and the the ‘Government’s seismic performance assessment criteria guidelines for buildings’ will change yet again and it will be back to square one. Keep the gravy train rolling.

  2. michael, 1. June 2020, 23:45

    Why should ratepayers spend $2million for council officers to set their own terms of reference on a range of options we haven’t even asked for, especially without having access to the engineers’ report on the library to help us reach our own informed opinions. This seems to be another expensive exercise for the council to get what they want, while claiming they have fulfilled their consultation requirements.

  3. Concerned Wellingtonian, 2. June 2020, 9:43

    I agree with Northland. It is unbelievable that young new councillors are happy to collect their weekly pay from us ratepayers and are not pressing to get on with things like the library. Could they please explain?

  4. Kara, 2. June 2020, 11:51

    There is a very good example of a wooden multi story building in central Wellington which wasn’t a casualty of the 7.8 quake. Perhaps the WCC could rebuild our central library with same materials. It would only necessitate not sending forests offshore.

  5. Wendy, 2. June 2020, 12:51

    Apart from warning the public that WCC is “of the opinion that the proposed process is robust and defendable, and meets the requirements of the Act”, all this seems to be is a request to spend $2million dollars working on costs for all the options put forward by council staff. Unbelievable.

  6. Shona, 2. June 2020, 13:23

    Why are staff continuing to suggest options that do not use the current building? Surely the message has been clear that we want our Library back in that building as soon as possible.

  7. Andrina, 2. June 2020, 15:27

    Yes I and many others would like the iconic library re strengthened. Thank you Adam Thornton and others for your input which was timely and invaluable. Hope the Mayor and Council take note and act. We want more transparency. Although i suspect WCC is hell bent with a hidden agenda.

  8. Andrina, 2. June 2020, 15:50

    Thank you Adam Thornton and others for your valuable input about the estimates to strengthen the iconic library. I suspect the Mayor and the WCC may have a hidden agenda and might prefer to rebuild and not restrengthen.

  9. Richard Keller, 2. June 2020, 15:59

    Council ‘operatives’, as well as government experts, are one of the main structural homes for the neo-liberalism that has settled into New Zealand. As such, you might not expect the council to have the confidence of keeping public interest to the fore. The WCC potentially has a new makeup to turn that around, but they will have to understand the determination of council staff to hold them off.

  10. Geraldine, 2. June 2020, 21:51

    $2m on three potential detailed design remediation packages … that may or may not be used if an accommodation option is chosen that does not involve the current building … is money that Wgtn ratepayers cannot afford to have thrown away.

    WCC has to commit to strengthening the building, not continue to prevaricate on strengthen or replace. The detailed design phase is essential, but as owners in earthquake-prone apartment buildings know, it is generally done on the preferred solution option. They do not willingly pay for multiple detailed designs.

    But this money is also to get a ‘concept design’ and ‘scope out potential refurbishment of the building’. Isn’t the concept to get the library back open and operating?

    Comparing Wellington to Christchurch’s new library is unrealistic – that was paid by insurance. WCC has to cut its cloth to fit our budget and make compromises – and we as ratepayers will have to accept that the 21st library service may take a bit longer to arrive.

  11. michael, 3. June 2020, 9:42

    Great points Geraldine – just a shame WCC prefers vanity projects over practical solutions

  12. Polly, 4. June 2020, 11:34

    Well just a reminder how long it has taken to repair the Town Hall. Back in June 2013, the council’s then CEO Mr Lavery briefed councillors on the cost of strengthening it which he said was a lot of money for zero return. But fortunately Mayor Celia Wade Brown said the town hall “wasn’t saved in the 1970s for me to swing a wrecking ball now.” She said it had cultural and Category 1 heritage value and the council had to provide leadership. How could the public expect private owners to upgrade their heritage buildings if the council didn’t. Then it took seven more years to reach a decision. And now, we mustnt have another seven year delay: the Central Library should be top of the list, not the Convention Centre.

  13. Concerned Wellingtonian, 4. June 2020, 12:38

    The lack of interest shown in our Town Hall by the regime’s out-of-towners in June 2013 opened the way for friendly developers to promote the absurd idea of having a convention centre. Re-opening the Town Hall gives a chance to re-visit the convention centre nonsense. If only councillors would see sense on the issue!