Wellington Scoop

$84m estimate to strengthen 1951 council building for music school

The view from Wellington’s Wakefield Street – the Municipal Office Building (left) and the Town Hall, both opened up with a new look for the national music centre.

The cost of strengthening the Municipal Office Building, which is to be part of the new home for Victoria University’s School of Music, has more than doubled.

Georgina Campbell reports in the NZ Herald that the cost has gone up to $84million from an original estimate of $40million.

In June last year the city council signed a deal with the university and the NZSO for the 1951 building to become part of the new music school, to be rebranded as a national music centre. The university agreed to lease it for 25 years, having earlier rejected a proposal to become the owner because of the need to strengthen it.

Today the Herald quotes City Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow as saying the $40m figure was very much an early indicative estimate.

“Since then, far more detailed engineering and QS work has been undertaken. Costs for the building have remained within earlier estimates but analysis of ground conditions mean that foundation works will be more complex than originally anticipated and therefore more costly.”

She said a detailed report on the final cost implications and other issues was to be presented to Mayor Andy Foster and councillors by the end of the year.

Victoria University and the NZSO confirmed they were aware of the cost escalation, which they said the council has been transparent about. “All parties, including the Wellington City Council, continue to work towards making the world-class national music centre a reality,” said NZSO chief executive Peter Biggs.

The university and NZSO are aiming to fundraise $30m for the fit-out of the national music centre. So far the campaign has received $18.3 million in pledges.

Work has started to strengthen the adjacent Town Hall, which will be the other part of the music centre.


  1. Dave, 16. October 2020, 22:31

    Par for the course. Everything the council touches doubles and triples in cost.

  2. Meredith, 16. October 2020, 22:44

    Let’s be clear! The so-called Music School is a facility for VUW. It is a University Department. Why are ratepayers subsidising the University? Has a lease been signed? Does it take into account these and more escalating costs? Let’s also be clear that Council staff have all been shifted out of Civic Square and ratepayers are paying the rent for them on the Terrace (to PWC?). [In June last year the council, choosing its words carefully, announced that it had signed a partnership deal with VUW and the NZSO for the Municipal Office Building to become part of the national music centre and for the university to lease it for 25 years. Has an actual lease agreement been signed yet? Hard to tell.]

  3. Hel, 16. October 2020, 23:19

    Somewhere the stupidity of spending ridiculous sums of money bringing unfit, aged buildings up to modern building standards needs to be recognised and stopped. How did the Council sign a deal with VUW without knowing the costs associated with building strengthening – this sounds unbelievable. The best value for ratepayers here would be for a demolition contract on the Library to be extended to include the other two buildings in Civic Square.

  4. David, 17. October 2020, 9:13

    If building strengthening costs cannot be “locked in” as part of a deal with insurers and subsequently double, then sorry 70 year old “heritage”. Pull it down. Same with the library, i love it and save/re-use what you can but do not let them become white elephants

  5. Toni, 18. October 2020, 11:18

    How is it this council would sign deals without thoroughly investigating the costs? And what is meant when the NZSO envisages a transformation of the Town Hall into the heart of a nationally significant centre of excellence and innovation for education, music, culture and the arts? Does this mean Wellington ratepayers are forking out over $100 million for the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to take over our Town Hall, leaving it unavailable to the city for anything else? And why is it the council’s responsibility to “work towards making the world-class national music centre a reality” especially when we have lost our Wellington Central Library used by over 1 million Wellingtonians per year, and our infrastructure is collapsing around us. Since when should ratepayers be expected to bear the costs for a ‘national’ organisation and become involved in funding a local university? [The Town Hall deal includes plenty of access for public concerts and other events.]


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