Wellington Scoop

Save the Town Hall – again

They can’t be allowed to demolish the Town Hall. Talk by two councillors this morning about keeping only the facade is nonsensical.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has been right to remind the city that the 110-year-old Town Hall is not only a category 1 heritage building but also, according to Abbey Road, its acoustic quality makes it one of the world’s top three venues for performing and recording music.

The Town Hall is part of a group of old buildings that make Wellington a unique city. It’s part of our public history and our heritage, along with the St James and the Opera House, each also over 100 years old. (And at least one of them probably needing some further strengthening too.)

The vote was unanimous last June when councillors voted to save and strengthen the Town Hall. At that time the price was estimated at $46m. After the vote, the Mayor said:

“My colleagues and I agreed that the project must go ahead. The Town Hall is a historic landmark building. The money we will spend will future-proof the building for the next century. Music performance and recordings will benefit hugely. Today we showed leadership for Wellington’s heritage and public safety. We have excellent economic opportunities to lead earthquake engineering, community resilience and architectural services globally. This is a critical commitment to a strong future for Wellington. We cannot expect private owners to upgrade and strengthen their heritage buildings if we don’t show this commitment.”

The same arguments apply today. They are more persuasive than the narrow view taken by developer Ian Cassels, who doesn’t believe in saving the past. The Taxpayers Union have joined in, with a similarly narrow view and an absurd claim that the building is “not fit for purpose.” They’ve forgotten that the score for Hobbit 2 was recorded in the Town Hall last year.

The debate about saving the building has been revived because of today’s reports that the cost of the strengthening project has increased to around $60m. It’ll be six months before a final figure is known. Plenty of time to consolidate all the arguments in favour of keeping the beautiful – and useful – building, instead of getting rid of it.

Read also:
Maximus on saving the Town Hall


  1. Neil Douglas, 15. February 2014, 18:48

    Its no less safe than it was a month, a year, a decade ago. The more ‘engineers’ are paid to find things wrong, the more they will.

    Just put yet another sign up “enter at own risk’.

  2. Pauline, 15. February 2014, 19:51

    Last month the council published “an economic growth agenda to transform our city” with 8 suggestions. I suggest that one or two of these ideas can be put on hold. The Town Hall should be No 1 on the list of things to do to transform our city. It will provide a superb concert hall with world renowned acoustic qualities. With a few additions and combined with the Michael Fowler Centre it could also become a superb conference centre. And let us not forget the Ilott Theatre which is also a wonderful venue for concerts, lectures etc.

    Wake up Wellington before another of our treasures is bulldozed down.