Wellington Scoop

Wellington’s Central Library closed indefinitely – earthquake risk


Wellington’s Central Library was shut tonight indefinitely, after the city council yesterday received engineering advice about significant vulnerabilities in an earthquake. There’s no date for it to reopen. The carpark underneath the library has also closed.

The decision is based on new guidelines, based on how precast concrete flooring systems perform in earthquakes. The library’s precast floors are similar to those in the Statistics New Zealand building, which partially collapsed in the 2016 Kāikoura earthquake. Engineers told the council they were concerned about the fixings to the seatings that house the library’s floors.

Here’s the council’s official announcement, released by the council at 3pm.

News from WCC
The Chief Executive of Wellington City Council Kevin Lavery in consultation with Mayor Justin Lester and Councillors has made the necessary decision to close the Wellington Central Library and public car park as of 8.30pm on Tuesday 19 March.

The closure comes after the Council received a final report from a team of engineers it had commissioned to review new guidance from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). The engineers have raised concerns about the building in the event of a significant earthquake.

Mayor Justin Lester says: “Based on the information we have this is the only decision we can make. This is about public safety.

“The Wellington Central Library is no ordinary CBD building. It is one of the city’s busiest buildings with 3,000 visitors a day, including 500 children. The safety of our residents is paramount.

“We will be making every effort to ensure that library services will be back in action as we know how crucial they are to the city and how disruptive this will be.

“For me, the library is the living room of our city and I understand how disappointed Wellingtonians will be to have a cherished and much-loved venue close. It pains me too.

“We will do our very best to operate temporary facilities and to make the investments we need to make the Central Library building safe for Wellingtonians.”

Kevin Lavery says: “Following receipt of MBIE guidelines last year, the Council commissioned an engineering assessment of the Central Library building. We received the engineering assessment yesterday and we have acted quickly to close the library based on this advice.

“With this in mind I made the decision to close it. The safety and wellbeing of the public and our people is our number one priority.

“It was already in our plans to do seismic strengthening work on the Central Library building, so it would have needed to close to carry out these works at some stage. The engineer’s report has made it necessary for me to decide to make this closure happen more quickly.

“As a precaution we are also closing some areas of the footpath around the library as these areas are within the building foot-print. This includes some access routes to the Civic Precinct; alternative routes will be put in place.

“We have been briefing our team, Councillors, library tenants and contractors as well as using a number of communication methods to notify our library users today.”

The expectation is that there will not be job losses as a result of this closure.

The Council is developing different ways to offer alternative library services including making use of our branch network, digital services and other offerings in the City. This won’t happen today so in the meantime members can continue to access library services via our other libraries and website.

For ease, all items currently on loan from Central Library will be renewed and fees suspended for returning items to other branches.

The library is a popular building in the city, and this closure will affect many people in different ways. Council’s community services team will be working with social agencies to make sure some of the city’s more vulnerable users are supported.

Council security staff and community service officers are on hand today at the building to offer advice and hand out information. From tomorrow if you have any questions or want more information please visit the Council service centre, call the contact centre on 04 499 4444 or visit the Council website wellington.govt.nz

As soon as there is more information on alternative services on offer it will be communicated through all Council channels.


  1. Javed, 19. March 2019, 16:25

    Damn, first Reading, now reading. [via twitter]

  2. Fleur Fitzsimons, 19. March 2019, 16:27

    This is sad but necessary. Our wonderful libraries are safe, dry, commercial free places of learning and refuge for Wellingtonians, we must see the Central Library open again as soon as possible. [via twitter]

  3. Diane Calvert, 19. March 2019, 16:30

    Staff & public safety are the priority. Long term solutions will follow. Thanks to ⁦WgtnCC chief ⁩ executive & justin lester ⁩ for a swift decision. [via twitter]

  4. Dave Armstrong, 19. March 2019, 16:37

    “No convention centre, no airport runway, no stadium, no more vanity projects until the Town Hall and Library are fully fixed up” said Lester and Lavery at the press conference. (Wishful thinking?) [via twitter]

  5. Justin Lester, 19. March 2019, 16:45

    And that’s our priority Dave. The Town Hall has started. The Library is our immediate priority. The city has not had a convention centre so used the Town Hall, which was never ideal. The others are in the late years of our long term plan because more work needs to be done. [via twitter]

  6. Andrew, 19. March 2019, 17:25

    Without any news regarding the future of the building, it stands that fixing it up or rebuilding will require some serious dosh… So, where could the funds come from? Reservoir projects going on hold? Or maybe a convention centre? [See Dave Armstrong’s excellent wishful thinking above: no convention centre, no arena…]

  7. Mark Cubey, 19. March 2019, 17:26

    Closure will include Clarks cafe, all the offices, car park, adjacent sidewalks with exterior overhangs. Huge body blow to Wellington. Get in there now, people, and get as many books as you can put into the community. I could only carry so much.

  8. James S, 19. March 2019, 17:54

    Thank you Justin for the prompt response. But what projects are the Council going to drop or postpone to make room for the priority work on the Library?

  9. Wellington City Council, 19. March 2019, 18:21

    At this stage we plan to do repair work on the Central Library building. We are considering a range of options for how we approach this and we don’t know yet if this will include any kind of upgrading or redevelopment beyond the required remedial work. Our expectation is that there will not be job losses as a result of this closure. We are letting our staff know today about the closure and will talk with individuals about options for them to work in different locations. Read more.

  10. Miranda Wilson, 19. March 2019, 18:29

    I’m so sad to hear this news. I practically lived at this library when I was a kid. Their amazing classical CD and score collections and their back issues of Strad and Strings were a huge influence on my decision to become a professional musician. I hope they will reopen. 😥 [via twitter]

  11. Corinna Connor, 19. March 2019, 18:30

    I hope that the WgtnCC shelves its plans for an unnecessary convention centre, and prioritises our Library and our Town Hall: amenities for the people. [via twitter]

  12. michael, 19. March 2019, 19:17

    If the WCC doesn’t shelve their vanity projects like the convention centre and covered arena, there is likely to be a ratepayers’ revolt as we cannot sustain enormous rate increases to satisfy their egos. I suggest that the council look to save money by dumping the plans for the convention centre and call for expressions of interest to build a hotel on the convention site, with the proviso a convention centre is part of it. The land could be put up as an incentive and at least that way Wellington would have enough hotel rooms to service large conventions.

  13. Trevor H, 19. March 2019, 20:50

    The Library and Town Hall must take absolute priority. The convention centre is a nonsense which stands no chance of paying its way.

  14. Polly, 19. March 2019, 22:23

    The Town Hall upgrade was supposed to start in 2013, yet here we are 2019 and work still hasn’t started and now the Central Library and car park are closed as well. So please save money by stopping the plan to rebuild Frank Kitts Park – leave the amphitheatre where it is for the public to enjoy concerts, or just sitting in the sun either on the promenade side or the park side.

  15. Meredith, 19. March 2019, 22:28

    Ratepayer funds going into a convention centre for the privileged few instead of into the library for all Wellingtonians? Wrong priorities, mayor and councillors. No town hall for a decade, no library, no civic in civic centre, two empty municipal staff buildings, demolition of the City to Sea bridge, and what is left… A rates-sapping convention centre? What a legacy.

  16. Dr Stephen Clarke, 20. March 2019, 8:23

    Sad news that the Central Library is closed until further notice due to earthquake concerns. Our libraries are our community hubs and this one that I know so well was a great one. [via twitter]

  17. Tim Jones, 20. March 2019, 9:15

    My favourite indoor location in Wellington. This is going to hit a lot of people hard. I hope it can be sorted as soon as safely possible.

  18. Dylan Horrocks, 20. March 2019, 9:23

    This is very sad news. The Central Library is the heart of this city. ❤ [via twitter]

  19. Rachael King, 20. March 2019, 10:58

    Sorry to hear about the Wellington Library. I wrote a goodly part of my first novel in there. I hope a solution is found quickly. [via twitter]

  20. Joise Talofi, 20. March 2019, 11:08

    It won’t Rachael. The WCC are big on creating problems, the solutions often just using common sense in the first place and not doing something (trolley buses, vanity projects, the cycle lane fixation etc) go right over their heads. The library would be fine for use as no building is safe in an earthquake anyhow.

  21. michael, 20. March 2019, 13:41

    There is no way we are going to have our civic square and library back for years if the town hall is anything to go by and if the WCC continues with their expensive vanity projects ahead of sorting this out.

  22. AroVideo Online, 20. March 2019, 17:13

    In response to the regretful news of the Wgtn City Library’s sudden closure, AroVideo wishes to reach out to library users to provide an alternative DVD rental service with longer term rentals available upon request.

  23. Traveller, 20. March 2019, 17:28

    Civic Square looks like a war zone today. Everything is closed and barricaded, except for the City Gallery. A dismal sight in the centre of the city.

  24. Concerned Wellingtonian, 20. March 2019, 17:44

    My helpful suggestion is that a new library is built instead of the proposed Convention Centre.
    In election year that would be a sod that would be worth turning for His Worship.
    And people would actually go there, unlike the stupid proposed Convention Centre.

  25. Labour voter, 20. March 2019, 17:55

    My heart is heavy.
    My civic centre is destroyed.
    My library is barricaded.
    My town hall lingers.
    The hole in my rates pocket burns large.

    Only the artificial grass in the Civic Centre remains. With the pigeon poo.
    Is this my town?
    Was this my town?

  26. michael, 20. March 2019, 18:25

    Good on you Aro Street Video as it is going to be a long wait before the Wellington Library is back in service

  27. Kara Lipski, 22. March 2019, 21:40

    Given how long it has taken to refit the town hall and other facilities in central Wellington, it looks as though we may as well demolish all the buildings that the Council thinks might be a safety risk and rebuild from the ground up – or just ignore the CBD and develop better public facilities in the suburbs.

  28. Mike Mellor, 24. March 2019, 13:50

    Fascinating that in the case of the library, the WCC is very risk averse about a risk of low likelihood but high consequence, putting to one side convenience for users; but for e-scooters ranks such convenience as much more important than the high likelihood/medium-low consequence risks for non-users (the latter not even being mentioned in the safety section of latest peer review, with places that have taken a more risk-averse approach – including California, their birthplace – being ignored).

  29. Alana, 25. March 2019, 13:36

    Good to hear that the mayor sets this as a priority – I hope the first priority.
    Will WCC staff need help moving the books? I’m sure heaps of us would join in.

  30. Gwynneth Jansen, 26. March 2019, 14:56

    Gutted to hear about the Library closure, a lot of people spend time there and winter is coming. Is there anywhere in the central city where people can hang out, stay warm and read something?

    After the closure of the Reading building – by the way how are McDonald’s able to keep trading on the site – I would like to know how many other buildings are going to need work done on them to satisfy the new MBIE guidelines?

    There may well be more closures.