Wellington Scoop

Council preference is to strengthen and upgrade the Central Library building, but all options must be considered

Wellington city councillors voted today that their preference is to strengthen and upgrade the existing Central Library. They also voted that the council will make “the reopening of a Central Library” one of its top priorities,” given that Wellingtonians place a high value on the service and there is a strong community desire to see this service return.”

They accepted legal advice that the Local Government Act requires them to consider all options, and that information on all options must be provided for the consultation process that is required by this Act, in order to find out what the community thinks before a final decision is made.

The wording of “a Central Library” instead of “the Central Library” was accepted so that the council could be accused of pre-determining its decision before the legally required processes had been followed.

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council today agreed on a process to speed up the timeframes on the Central Library project. The revised process will see early consultation with the community and design work being progressed on options for the existing building which will begin later this month.

“We have a range of options in terms of the degree of strengthening, existing building or new, the level of services replacement and the opportunity to modernise what is inside the library as we did with Waitohi,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“We know how much Wellingtonians love the Central Library, and we are keen to see the service reopened as soon as possible. We wanted to know how the project timeframes could be shortened as this is a top priority for our city. We asked Council officers to provide additional advice within the week.

“The advice provided today will combine two steps to speed up the decision-making process and reduce the project timeframes by six to nine months,” says Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, the Council’s Libraries Portfolio Leader. “Unfortunately decision-making in local government takes a long time. We have sought advice and this is the quickest option available to the Council.

“The Council has given a clear message today that we want work to be undertaken towards strengthening our precious Central Library building if possible. Legally we have to consider all practicable options but the current preference is to strengthen the existing building. Today’s decision gives the iconic and much-loved Central Library building the best chance of continuing to provide this vital service into the future.

”We will allocate funding in the 2020-2021 Annual Plan to start the detailed engineering and architectural design process now. This will include the building services and any refurbishment needed.

“We have also agreed to bring forward the consultation required under the Local Government Act in the Long-term Plan process, so we can get earlier decisions on the way forward.

“By using the Special Consultative Procedure it means we can understand and consider what the community thinks before deciding on the preferred building solution and provide funding for it in the Long-term Plan later in the year when this is prepared. We must meet our legal requirements under the Act and the process agreed today by Councillors achieves that.”

Mayor Foster adds: “By the end of this year we will have taken concrete steps towards reopening a large Central Library space in the heart of our city. I am now assured we are on the quickest path available while ensuring we meet our legal obligations for everyone to have their say in this significant investment for Wellington and our communities.

“We are excited the third and largest interim branch, Te Awe Library, will open by mid-July. This will also be our second largest library in Wellington, after the Johnsonville Library at Waitohi. Te Awe will be connected to a fantastic new café, like Common Ground at Waitohi.

“There is a dedicated collection and space for children and their caregivers, we have designed specific quiet zones where people can read or study – restoring the public sanctuary in the CBD. Popular events will also be held here once the pandemic alert levels ease.

“The 30,000 plus collection at Te Awe has been curated based on the interests of the people who used the Central Library. By then library customers will also be able to order items in the Central collection from the new Collection and Distribution Centre, which they will be able to pick up from a branch of their choice.”

The Central Library has been closed to the public since March 2019. It is not earthquake-damaged, however other buildings of similar construction were badly damaged in the Seddon and Kaikoura quakes, including the neighbouring Civic Administration Building.

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.

The building’s mechanical, fire, electrical, and hydraulic services were also assessed and almost all need to be upgraded or replaced.

The interim CBD library services network will be fully operational in July when Te Awe (Brandon Street) and Te Pātaka (Distribution Centre) will open. They follow the Arapaki Manners Library and Service Centre and He Matapihi Library which opened in May and October 2019 respectively.

You can read the amendment paper on the Wellington City Council website: https://wellington.govt.nz/~/media/your-council/meetings/council/2020/may/additional-information-related-to-item-22-wellington-central-library-building-and-service-update-and-building-remediation-options.pdf


  1. michael, 3. June 2020, 18:13

    Let’s hope the public, and now hopefully the councillors, are enough to get the library saved and reopened quickly. The big concern is this still is dependent on the advice of council officers who, to ensure the process is fair and democratic, will need be inclusive, transparent and unbiased. Just a shame this wasn’t started a year ago.

  2. Iona Pannett, 3. June 2020, 23:48

    We listened to you as you said you want your library back. The question is how much are people prepared to pay for that. This issue will be debated soon. Keen to hear all views, thanks for feedback so far. [via twitter]

  3. ICW, 4. June 2020, 12:11

    The statement that all options must legally be considered is interesting as, historically this has not necessarily happened. In many cases, public opinion has not been sought until after council generated options have been decided. So, what is different here? Perhaps the huge public backlash which has been a long time coming and hopefully may lead to democratic change in the way the council consult?

  4. Tony Jansen, 5. June 2020, 8:40

    I get the feeling that the council has been forced to shelve plans for a rebuild due to the extent of the public backlash. It is clear to me that we have dragged them to this point as it has taken over a year to get to this stage. A win for democracy, but if we do not keep the pressure on, they will wriggle out of this somehow and we will not end up getting what we want. Just out of interest, did we get the same level of consultation over the Convention Centre?