by Inner City Wellington
In accordance with the Local Government Act 2002, the Wellington City Council has announced a ‘special consultative procedure’ to determine the future of the Central Library. Under special consultation, the WCC is required to prepare and adopt a ‘Statement of Proposal’ and, to this end, they must ensure that ‘a summary of the information contained in it is a fair representation of the major matters in that statement of proposal.’
ICW is concerned the statement of proposal will not include ‘a fair representation of the major matters’ because the WCC has not allowed the public access to all of the detailed information it has based its recommendations on, to allow us to make informed contributions. Nor are the public having any level of input until WCC officers have developed the statement of proposal which, once again, means the public will only be able to consult on a WCC-driven agenda based on council officers’ representation of data we have not seen.
To ensure better and more transparent consultation, the public are entitled to become more informed and empowered in the decision-making over our central library. Public discontent in this regard became very obvious through the huge public backlash against the recent proposals put forward by council officers.
ICW suggests that the following information was either misinforming or not adequately dealt with.
WHY was the original public promise by the CEO and Mayor that the library would be remediated and opened as soon as possible never actioned?
WHO determined that remediation should be ignored, and plans drawn up for a completely different outcome, without prior consultation with the public?
WHY were the previous costings grossly inflated,  which led to huge public misconception of the options?
WHY weren’t costings split into separate specific and well-defined stages as follows:
1. Cost of remediating existing building as initially promised, and as expected by the public.
2. The cost of the existing budgeted fit-out for the library before it was closed in 2019, as approximately $30million has been allocated.
3. Cost to strengthen the existing building – either in stages or all at once.
4. Cost and thorough details of council officers’ ambitious proposal for a totally new fitout which includes unasked for additions.
5. Cost of demolishing the current building.
6. Cost of building a new building.
WHY is the council disregarding the Civic Square Precinct Heritage listing, which includes the library?
WHY has the public never been given access to Professor Ken Elwood’s report , despite numerous promises from the Mayor to do so, and countless requests from the public for it to be released (including an OIA request).
WHY does the building services design report include replacing items which the condition assessment acknowledged were well maintained and in relatively good condition? Where is the history of excessive maintenance costs that would justify categorizing items as at the end of their economic life? Over usage of design life may be misleading when it is the actual condition that matters.
WHY does the council suggest the library building is not fit for purpose, when it was designed to be reconfigured to suit future requirements?
WHAT public consultation informed the decision to have Capital E in the library? Many parents appreciate Capital E in its new position adjacent to Frank Kitts Park which allows easy access for indoor/outdoor play on Frank Kitts Park.
WHAT is the problem with the access and integration of the Central Library Building to Civic Square and the Precinct as claimed by WCC? Where is the evidence of any issue with this?
HOW can the public be expected to believe councillors are fully supportive of retaining our iconic library  when it has been agreed that council will make “a” not “the” central library one of its top priorities? This already suggests a prior decision has already been made that a new library needs to be ‘provided’ rather than the existing one be reopened.
WHY hold up the Christchurch library as an example of what we might have, when it takes no account of the fact this new building was covered by insurance – not a cost to the ratepayers as is the case for us?
WHY does any of this have to happen now? Surely the key question is – can the Central Library be remediated so we have back the level of service prior to its closure, until the city is in a better position to consider any major new developments?
And finally, if WCC councillors are genuine in their desire to ensure the public are given the opportunity to be actively involved in the future of the library, they need to ensure the WCC is far more inclusive and genuinely transparent than they have been to date.