Wellington Scoop

Another debate on five Central Library options, with staff recommending the expensive one

central library athfield redesign

The Wellington City Council today released a “Statement of Proposal” in which staff recommend that the council spend $200m to strengthen the Central Library to the highest level. The recommendation is one of five options – two other options, not recommended by staff, would strengthen the Library at a considerably lower cost. And then there are two options for the building to be demolished, with the possibility of a rebuild being carried out by a private developer and leased back to the council.

The Statement of Proposal and its five options will be debated by councillors at a meeting on Tuesday morning. They will be asked to approve the Statement and to “note” a preferred option which will then become part of consultation which will continue till September. But when will there be a final decision on the Central Library? Not it seems when the chosen option is identified in October – it will then be added to the annual plan for 2021-2031. And, wait for it, there will be another round of consultation next year – before a “final decision” is made in June.

That’s 12 months from now, and more than two years after the Central Library was closed.

The five options were announced by the council at the end of May, together with costings that were later criticised as being inflated. (They don’t seem to have changed since then – the least expensive option is listed as costing between $76m and $90m with a reopening date at the end of 2023; the most expensive option favoured by council staff would reopen the building in the middle of 2025.)

The options have already been debated – at a council meeting in June. At that meeting councillors spoke in favour of strengthening and reopening the Central Library. They also spoke in favour of getting this done as soon as possible. It seems that the same debate is to be repeated on Tuesday. But Tuesday’s big decision will be whether to accept the staff recommendation of the most expensive option, or whether to adopt a lower-cost option, which would bring the Library back into use much earlier, though with more work needed at a later time.

News from WCC
The Wellington City Council today released a Statement of Proposal to gather public views to inform decisions on the future of the Central Library in October.

Mayor Andy Foster and Councillors will be asked to approve the Statement of Proposal at a full Council meeting on Tuesday. This decision will then kick-off a public consultation and engagement campaign which will run from Monday 27 July to 7 September 2020.

“This is an important decision for our city and Wellingtonians. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to set up the building and Central Library service to support our communities – preferably without further disruptions – for at least the next 50 years,” says Mayor Andy Foster.

“By opening the third and largest interim CBD library this Tuesday, people have three handy locations where they can access our much-missed Central Library services,” says Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons, Portfolio Leader Libraries. “We have done everything possible to speed up the decision-making process. Now we need to know what you think is the best option for creating a central library service which will continue to serve our diverse and growing communities over the long term.”

“The Central Library building plays a huge role in bringing people to Te Ngākau Civic Precinct and the inner city which we want to protect for future generations,” says Councillor Iona Pannett, Portfolio Leader Urban Development. “Balancing this, alongside the many priorities facing our city, is why we need to hear what you think over the coming months.”

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 Local Government Act requires a preferred option and the paper recommends remediating the building to the highest level, including base isolation as this would:

· provide the highest level of safety for people using the building during, and immediately following, a significant earthquake

· see the services and building reopen quickly

· reduce the likelihood of significant, costly repairs after an earthquake

· reduce the need for additional strengthening to meet building regulation changes

· most likely protect the building’s heritage and will integrate more with Te Ngākau Civic Precinct

· allow Council to future proof its ability to deliver an adaptable, modern Library Service.

Public consultation and engagement 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 http://www.letstalk.wellington.govt.nz/central-library from 27 July.

You can find a copy of the Council paper and proposed Statement of Proposal on the Council website https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/meetings/committees/council/2020/07/21.

Yesterday: Earlier statement in which the Council announced what it has repeated today.


  1. Wendy Armitage, 16. July 2020, 18:34

    Does the Mayor really believe they have done everything possible to speed up the process to get the library re-opened? The Consultation document at the end of the Council agenda clearly states that the decision-making process will be in three stages:

    Stage 1. Consultation and engagement which goes from 27th July to 7th September.

    Stage 2. Agreeing to the long term plan in MARCH/APRIL 2021 where the public will be asked to prioritise the library project against all other projects which will then feed into the council’s final decision in LATE JUNE 2021

    Stage 3: Will be when the work starts, which has NO DATE!

    So much for just getting on and making the library safe and getting it open ASAP. It is going to be years before anything happens – just like the town hall.

  2. D'Esterre, 17. July 2020, 13:30

    “So much for just getting on and making the library safe and getting it open ASAP. It is going to be years before anything happens – just like the town hall.”

    Exactly. At this rate, nothing will happen in my lifetime. I’m sad at, and infuriated by, this bloody schmozzle. It reflects very poorly on the Council.

  3. John M, 17. July 2020, 21:25

    WCC you should be ashamed of yourselves – the failure to address the very sad and very real problem of a closed Central Library has been pushed aside with a staggering array of pathetically unbelievable excuses. You were all gung-ho before the election, but how things have changed, you’ve all cowed into your corners and are kicking the can down the road to avoid turmoil. But let’s face it guys it’s so much easier that way. Who wants to step up and fight for a just cause? Far too dangerous! Could shatter a wonderful career.

  4. michael, 17. July 2020, 23:12

    They are probably huddled in corners doing deals with developers to get rid of the problem, then have someone else to blame when it all turns to custard.

  5. Traveller, 19. July 2020, 12:22

    It’s evident that the maximum price option of $200m is inflated by a lot of redesign of the building – rather than just restrengthening. Councillors should get an actual price solely for restrengthening – which doesnt include all sorts of tinkering with the classic Athfield building.


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