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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 [1]
May 27: Council told its estimates for strengthening the Central Library are “ludicrous” [2]
May 14: Where is the engineers’ report? [3]

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 [4] from Monday 27 July.

The NZ Herald reports: [5]

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 [6]:

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.