Wellington Scoop

Councillors being asked to approve the most costly plan for strengthening the Central Library

News from Wellington City Council
The Wellington City Council will tomorrow publish a proposed Statement of Proposal on the future of the Central Library. Mayor Andy Foster and Councillors will be asked to approve the Statement of Proposal at a full Council meeting on Tuesday, so the public consultation and engagement process can begin on Monday 27 July.

This is an important decision, and a rare opportunity to consider both the building and the service at the same time, to set it up to continue supporting our communities now and for the next 50 plus years.

The Local Government Act (LGA) requires that the Council consider all practicable options with an open mind and provides the community with adequate information and time to consider that information before coming to a decision. That is what the statement of proposal process does.

The Statement of Proposal outlines five options for retaining a central library service in Te Ngākau Civic Precinct. Three options would remediate the existing building to a low, mid, or high level. The remaining two options would build a new library on either the existing site or another site within Te Ngākau Civic Precinct.

The LGA requires a preferred option.

June 3: Councillors vote to strengthen and upgrade the existing Central Library
May 27: Council told its estimates for strengthening the Central Library are “ludicrous”
May 14: Where is the engineers’ report?

Council management at this stage are recommending remediating the building to the highest level, including base isolation. A high-level remediation option would provide the highest level of safety for people using the building during, and immediately following, a significant earthquake; it would see the services and building reopen quickly, as well as reducing the likelihood of significant, costly repairs after an earthquake and the need for additional strengthening to meet building regulation changes. However also expensive and takes a long time to deliver.

The consultation and engagement process will begin on Monday 27 July with the launch of a consultation webpage where people can find information, ask questions, sign-up to receive regular updates, and find out how to share their views.

People will also be able to join Speaker Events, visit our Planning for Growth Tiny House pop-up information kiosk, or attend events at some library branches from mid-August. More details will be available at www.letstalk.wellington.govt.nz/central-library from Monday 27 July.

The NZ Herald reports:

The most expensive repair option, and therefore the most resilient, would cost between $174.4 million and $199.8 million and bring the building to 100 per cent NBS. This is the preferred option recommended by council officers, but the proof will be in the pudding when the documents are tabled before councillors next week. An indicative opening date for strengthening the building with base isolators is as far away as May 2025. That’s compared to the low level remediation option’s opening date of November 2023. Strengthening the building to 40 per cent NBS would cost between $76.3 million and $90.8 million.

The DomPost reports:

The paper … revealed the council was looking at options to privatise the library, with staff to call for expressions of interest from prospective developers. It said a developer could buy the building, upgrade it, and lease the land back to the council. City councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, who holds the libraries portfolio, said she was surprised by the proposals given councillors had previously rejected the most expensive strengthening option. She was also surprised the council was considering privatising the library as an alternative funding option.


  1. Helene Ritchie, 16. July 2020, 9:55

    Council, show us the small print before we can comment. As far as I am aware, there is not one (of many) engineering expert reports to Council recommending the most expensive base isolation (plus different service delivery plus plus?). Show it to us if there is such expert advice. Or is this just another vanity project pulled out of thin air?

    Will the funding proposal (i.e. source of funds/ not just costs) be announced along with whatever else will be announced today?

    This consultation is just a delaying and diverting tactic when the public have been emphatically requesting that the Central library should simply be fixed and re-opened, and then any additional maintenance and work phased in over time in a proper asset management plan.

    Council’s own engagement policy, (Page 20, Appendix 2.) quoting the Local Government Act, does not require such consultation for that.

  2. michael, 16. July 2020, 12:50

    Why are councillors being asked, yet again, to approve the council officers’ recommendation before all proposals go to public consultation – we want to see ALL of the independent reports and documentation before any decision is made because the WCC’s track record does not inspire confidence.

  3. simon, 16. July 2020, 14:28

    It is interesting to note the comment “The need for additional strengthening to meet building regulations changes”. To my knowledge this is the first time any council has admitted that earthquake strengthening will be a continuous process. This would mean any building even one strengthened to 100% of NBS is never safe from future yellow stickering.

  4. Rebecca Matthews, 16. July 2020, 14:32

    I have zero interest in privatising our central library, or cooking up some deal with developers. Libraries are a public good. I have fought privatisation my whole life and not about to stop now. [via twitter]

  5. michael, 16. July 2020, 15:05

    Good on you Rebecca. We just want our Library made safe and reopened as is NOW!

  6. Jill Ford, 16. July 2020, 16:00

    Does privatising refer to the building and not the library service. If so this is no different to council leasing a building for any other service, why does the council need to own everything. What the public wants is a library service, preferably in a building that is good for purpose. WCC seems to have an obsession with owning buildings that then are over budget.

  7. michael, 16. July 2020, 16:00

    The public were under the impression that council officers were told to go away and prioritise cheaper strengthening options. Instead the officers have come up with pretty much the same proposal as before, and are now suggesting selling the public land to a private developer. Councillors seem to be in the dark about this; clearly their instructions have been pretty much ignored.

  8. Georgina Campbell, 16. July 2020, 16:44

    Does the proposal for a $200m strengthening fix sound familiar? Why was a press conference held today when all the options are the same ones from May?

  9. wendy, 16. July 2020, 17:26

    Who directed council officers to look at selling the Library to a developer? And how is it that councillors seem not to know anything about this?

  10. Diane Calvert, 16. July 2020, 17:57

    Given the costs and timeframes for all options in this proposal, a rebuild is also a worthy option. [via twitter]

  11. Lindsay, 16. July 2020, 17:59

    Diane: do you favour giving the library rebuild to one of the council’s favoured private developers?

  12. Helene Ritchie, 16. July 2020, 18:44

    Diane would you mind sending me the expert engineer’s report that recommends new build. I would like to make it public. But I believe there is no such expert advice and only 3 options were recommended by engineers. If that is the case, are you and any other councillor being irresponsible to support such a new build option just from your own gut feeling?

  13. michael, 16. July 2020, 18:59

    Diane, the costs are extremely misleading as, looking at the images published in the media, they are not to just strengthen the existing building, they are also to alter it considerably inside and outside.
    At the council meeting several weeks ago councillors were told by an engineer (backed by three building contractors) that there is no way it is cheaper to pull down an existing building and rebuild, instead of strengthening the existing building.
    Can we please have true and correct figures to strengthen the Library as it is and re-open it.
    Wellington cannot afford to wait years and years for another vanity project when the community has lost its most popular public building and is becoming a less attractive place to live.

  14. Hel, 16. July 2020, 19:44

    Well said Jill, blind ideology is often an excuse for not thinking things through. I don’t see any suggestion that the Council are considering privatising the delivery of library services; considering all options with an open mind seems like a sensible starting point. Having said that, hard to see why Officers would favour the option they have, at that cost a new build looks so much more logical.

  15. Geraldine Murphy, 16. July 2020, 19:49

    What is the basis for this statement “The need for additional strengthening to meet building regulations changes”? Where has this statement come from?

    The earthquake prone building legislation put in place in 2017 was supposed to provide certainty for owners who had strengthened their buildings that they wouldn’t have to continually strengthen as the building code changed. Owners of earthquake-prone buildings are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each, and multiple millions for the whole buildings to get off the earthquake-prone list. WCC must clarify this statement.

  16. michael, 16. July 2020, 20:36

    Absolutely agree Geraldine.
    It seems like scare tactics to get the most expensive option, or to bring the building down.

  17. wendy, 16. July 2020, 20:50

    I note in the council agenda that the council officers have stated the cost of a new build is based on an “industry square metre rate” for a reasonable quality building”. However, the images of the proposed changes to the existing building seems a lot higher standard than a “reasonable quality building”. Also the cost of bringing the existing building down is not mentioned at all; this would add considerable costs to a new build.
    I do not think it unreasonable to assume the cost of a new library, at the standard being currently proposed for the existing one, would be a very similar cost to the $200 million convention centre.

  18. Hone Simpson, 16. July 2020, 22:34

    The library is hideously ugly and needs to be demolished ASAP and something decent built.
    It really needs to be built privately as councils stuff up everything they organise badly,this library and the adjacent WCC HQ are prime examples of WCC incompetance, less than 30 years old and boarded up.

  19. D'Esterre, 16. July 2020, 23:05

    “Council management at this stage are recommending remediating the building to the highest level, including base isolation……………However also expensive and takes a long time to deliver.”

    I’m astonished at this. It is as if that May meeting, at which a succession of architects and engineers told Councillors what’s needed to get the library reopened, never happened.

    The most expensive option isn’t necessary. What are these people trying to do: create monuments to themselves?

    Moreover, who do they think is going to pay for all this? Most assuredly not the ratepayers; we’ll be stretched to fund the repair of ageing infrastructure, never mind the colossally expensive boondoggle on which Council officers clearly have their hearts set.

    It looks very much as if Councillors have been hornswoggled by Council staff. We elected you to represent us and our views. Ignore the staff and do what many ratepayers have urged you to do: remediate the floors in the library and re-open it pronto. The remainder of the improvements can be phased in as funding becomes available.

    Enough with this nonsense!

  20. D'Esterre, 17. July 2020, 10:27

    Hone Simpson: “The library is hideously ugly and needs to be demolished ASAP and something decent built.” This is your opinion. It isn’t shared by many of us. I wonder where you think all that money would come from? Not from the long-suffering (rapidly becoming short-suffering, in my case) ratepayers, that’s for sure.

    “It really needs to be built privately as councils stuff up everything they organise badly…” Not Councils in general: THIS Council, though. As to other Councils: Christchurch has built a swanky new library. And a fantastic art gallery before that.

  21. wendy, 17. July 2020, 11:09

    I do not understand why the council won’t just get on with the lowest option to strengthen the building and get it open. Once the building is up to standard then in 10 years down the track when the city may be able to afford it – make all the flash changes inside and out then. In the meanwhile the inner-city community will have their library and vital community hub back again.

    This is all perfectly feasible, as it is clearly stated in the proposal put forward to councillors that, “the current library size does have capacity for growth and the ability to make changes to the library’s offerings as well as potential space for community partners”

  22. Maude, 17. July 2020, 13:55

    Lindsay I think the report you seek from Andy has been replaced by a large photo of him grinning at us from the front of the consultation document, while recommending another $200 million spend.


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