Wellington Scoop

Heritage classification gives highest protection for Central Library

Media release from Helene Ritchie
Helene Ritchie, a former Deputy mayor and Chair of Wellington’s Civic Centre project which included the Athfield Central Library, is delighted that Heritage New Zealand has approved her nomination that the Library be given the highest possible protection.

“This now gives a clear direction for the future of our valuable building and library.”

“I first made nominated this highest possible protection in June 2019, and subsequently again, when public submissions were called in October 2020. Today I have received by letter, the following,

“After looking at the proposal report and considering all submissions (16 in support, 9 against), our Board has decided that Wellington Central Library has sufficient significance to be entered on the list as a Category 1 Historic Place.”

The List entry record says:

“ Wellington Central Library possesses outstanding architectural significance as a highly esteemed postmodern building, employing classical architecture forms, historical references, and varied shapes and materials to arresting effect..is critically acclaimed by architectural commentators. It has exceptional historical significance as a major work of Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s most renowned architects of recent times…”

The list entry will take effect on 10 March.

They go on to say,

“Properties on the list should be conserved for the future…..That a conservation plan is prepared, that the building is seismically strengthened, conserved and refurbished in accordance with the conservation plan and that the building be added to the Wellington City District Plan Heritage schedule, and scheduled for protection, and that the heritage values of the building inform use and management of the site.”

“This is something Wellingtonians can celebrate. Category 1 means that a very important building has been accorded the highest possible protection in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

The country can celebrate with us.”

Helene Ritchie was a former deputy mayor of Wellington City and Chair of the Civic Centre Project which created the concept, and included the then new Wellington central library, an additional new building protection of the remaining, a strengthened and saved town hall, protection of all buildings there, open space, the City to sea Bridge and a civic heart for the Capital.


  1. Mike Mellor, 24. February 2021, 13:22

    Unfortunately, listing by Heritage New Zealand gives no protection to a heritage building.

    The real protection mechanism is inclusion in the District Plan – so over to you, WCC.

  2. Helene Ritchie, 24. February 2021, 14:37

    Mike I have to respond. Re the District Plan: My media statement quoting Heritage New Zealand says as much. I think you do a great disservice to all (and there have been very many) who have put enormous effort into getting future protection of this building to this point. They include very thorough work by the Board and staff of Heritage New Zealand, many articles on Wellington Scoop, the Dompost, Redmer Yska and many of the public.

    The Civic Centre as a whole is already listed as a heritage area in the District Plan. The Category 1 protection just announced, which is the highest heritage status, backed up by Heritage New Zealand’s in depth research, is not to be ignored by the Council in its next review of the District Plan.

    The Category 1 listing by Heritage NZ and their 44 page proposal evidences a highly professional investigation, outlining in detail the importance of the Central Library, its architecture and architect, use, history and its special nature to Wellington, Wellingtonians and the wider Aotearoa/New Zealand community.

  3. Mike Mellor, 24. February 2021, 16:01

    Sorry, Helene, but I’m just stating the facts: while the process may be underway, as yet there is no confirmation that the building will in fact be protected.

    Heritage NZ listing is certainly a very positive and welcome move, and they add “the building [should] be added to the Wellington City District Plan Heritage schedule, and scheduled for protection”. At this stage that’s just a recommendation (albeit a strong well-supported one).

    So it would be good for WCC to confirm that the Heritage NZ listing “is not to be ignored…in its next review of the District Plan”. Heritage NZ, supported by strong and effective advocacy, has done its bit, in its usual comprehensive and professional manner: now it’s over to WCC to actually put the desired protection in place.

  4. Northland, 24. February 2021, 23:06

    Good on you Helene. Let’s see this beautiful building protected and made safe for public use once again. Next step ‘Save The Central Library’ campaign

  5. Kara, 25. February 2021, 9:08

    If WCC intends to reduce the book acquisition budget, what is the point of giving the library building a heritage classification.


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