Wellington Scoop

Where’s the focus on saving the Central Library?

Open Letter from ICW to Wellington City Councillors
Inner City Wellington sincerely hopes that the Special Consultative procedure for our Central Library moves ahead with public support. This open letter is prompted by our concern that, if not appropriately focussed and supported by relevant and robust information, the Proposal to be brought to the Council on 21 July may meet the same vociferous rejection that caused the Council to send staff back to rework their recommendations last time.

The Special Consultation Process, amongst other things, requires the following:

The Preparation and adoption of a Statement of Proposal

Section 83AA of the Local Government Act requires that ‘a summary of the information contained in a statement of proposal must:



What brief have Staff been given to focus these ‘major matters’?

What, if any, emphasis has been placed on the public and councillors’ stated desire to retain the existing building?

What, if any, emphasis has been placed on the Heritage Status of the Library?


The range of resolutions taken at the last WCC meeting are too numerous and potentially conflicting to provide a clear framework which should surely prioritise costs, benefits and risks of remediation of the existing building, preferably with some independent specialist/expert validation or alternate view.

Other considerations like the inclusion of Capital E, development of Civic Square etc should not be permitted to cloud the primary decision. And as secondary considerations, information about their inclusion should be presented in a form that specifies additional costs and benefits.

Although we challenge the legal necessity claimed by Staff that WCC consider alternative options like a new build, if presented as an option this must include the cost and environmental considerations of demolition of the existing building.



Will this summary provide the public with all relevant and appropriate impartial information to enable properly informed input in consultation?

If not in the summary, what provision will be made for public access to information they feel they need to provide their input?


Selective information presented to support a particular outcome may predetermine a solution which would not meet requirements for authentic public consultation.

ICW asks all Councillors to seriously consider our concerns, which reflect those of many Wellingtonians, to find a way forward to ensure the Council and the community can work together through a democratic process, in what has unnecessarily become a very messy project.

We also hope that this debacle might presage the beginning of a new way of working together, where the public are involved from the outset in developing concepts and options, rather than being thwarted in the final stages of project development where tickbox ‘consultation’ occurs on decisions that have largely been predetermined.

We appreciate much of the significant work that Council does on an ongoing basis on our behalf, but respectfully remind them that in relation to decisions as large and important as a major community facility like our Central Library, both Councillors and Staff need to be mindful that their legislated purpose is to enable democratic local decision making and action and to promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being of the Wellington City Community in the present and for the future.

Inner City Wellington seeks to serve as a progressive and influential voice of and for the residential community in Te Aro and Wellington Central.


  1. michael, 30. June 2020, 15:33

    Are there any councillors prepared to answer these reasonable questions?

  2. Andrina, 30. June 2020, 15:56

    I concur with michael’s question. But we havent seen any councillor responding yet.

  3. Mal, 1. July 2020, 11:21

    I think there is a larger issue at hand here; for some reason WCC want to own the whole block….development maybe?

  4. George Troup, 1. July 2020, 12:18

    It seems inexplicable that the quickest and least expensive approach to rehabilitating a Wellington icon which provides an essential service is not being pursued in a straightforward manner. The Council must give clearer guidance to staff as to what is required.

  5. Paul, 3. July 2020, 18:31

    I share the concerns about flawed information being brought forward for councillors’ consideration of the options for future library development. These concerns were magnified in my mind when I was emailed a few days ago about a “Wellington City Libraries Customer Satisfaction Survey” – presumably as part of a random survey of WCL users. I filled in the survey but finished it feeling so dissatisfied. The questions were totally biased, verging on fraudulent.
    The very first substantive question was about which library branch had you most often visited in the last month and 6 months – no options for people who mainly or exclusively used the Central library in the past. Many of the subsequent questions were strongly slanted toward provision of on-line rather than physical services, including the reading of fiction and non-fiction books, and away from the availability of hard copies in actual buildings. There was no provision for comments.
    I urge any councillors reading this article, or people preparing for whatever public participation is possible in the debate, to ignore or discount any conclusions based on this fatally flawed survey.

  6. D'Esterre, 7. July 2020, 23:06

    Paul: “These concerns were magnified in my mind when I was emailed a few days ago about a Wellington City Libraries Customer Satisfaction Survey…” This reminds me of the time, many years ago now, when a so-called customer survey was used as “evidence” that there was commuter support for turning the Johnsonville railway line into a rapid busway. Or something of that sort. If I remember rightly, said survey was generated by the bus company serving our area (well, they would be keen on that option, wouldn’t they!). When their plan was revealed, it got the general thumbs down from the local populace. We saw them off, with the help of then-MP Peter Dunne.

    I wonder who generated the WCL survey? Would it have been Council staff? It sounds as if – just like that busway survey all those years ago – it’s intended to serve a predetermined purpose. Very dishonest.

  7. James, 10. July 2020, 14:15

    The French Government has now taken a decision on rebuilding Notre Dame after the fire of April 2019. Meanwhile, the Wellington City Council is still working out how to consult on the future of the central library after the closure of March 2019!

  8. Lindsay, 10. July 2020, 17:41

    The notable silence from Wellington city councillors – none of whom have responded to the ICW article – shows a sad disengagement from the issue of reopening the Central Library, for which Wellingtonians have expressed the strongest support.

  9. michael, 10. July 2020, 18:30

    Unfortunatley these projects seem to be driven by council staff, not the councillors or the public. If only WCC officers would accept they are paid to work in the best interests of the public, and start collaborating with the public at the beginning of a project not the end. This would prevent all the angst and costs associated with trying to defend their positions against public backlashes.

  10. Richard W Keller, 11. July 2020, 11:02

    The purpose (in the larger cultural/historical picture) of closing or even demolishing the library (and also building a giant white elephant convention centre) was (is still) to destroy the very concept of a ‘public’ library.
    The neo-liberal has become entrenched in the council officers, and the closing of the library at their advice is a bold step toward that historical outcome. Bold, yes, but we are living in desperate times, the Post Truth Era where denial has become mainstream.

  11. Concerned Wellingtonian, 11. July 2020, 14:24

    Yes, council staff do try to drive things, and Nicky Hager’s Shelly Bay report is devastating about this, especially since it shows that the then mayor seemed to be guiding them. But the rest of the councillors are there to control these things. That is where any blame should lie.

  12. Henry Duke, 13. July 2020, 19:26

    Maybe it became less of a priority when the covid-19 hit.

  13. Fleur Fitzsimons, 14. July 2020, 10:59

    Councillors will be deciding on the options to consult re the future of our loved Central Library next Tuesday. We have already indicated a preference for strengthening the existing building so watch this space for chance to have your say. [via twitter]