Wellington Scoop

Justin Lester commits to retaining the Library building, “unless there is absolutely no way…”

Media release from Justin Lester and Fleur Fitzsimons
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester and Councillor Fleur Fitzsimons are today releasing the Wellington Libraries Charter, outlining commitments and priorities for protecting the important role of libraries in our communities.

The Charter is in part a response to concerns about the closure of the Central Library, which was a necessity after the building was deemed unsafe.

“We were very disappointed to have to close Central Library, but the safety of Wellingtonians comes first,” Justin says. “We have opened our first pop-up library and confirmed the opening of two more library facilities in our CBD. We will ensure everyone has the best access to library services. The Libraries Charter sets out exactly how we plan to achieve that.

“We commit to retaining the existing Central Library building unless it is shown there is absolute no way to strengthen the building to make it safe. The Central Library is Wellington’s living room and a cherished component of our city.

“We also commit to modernising the Central Library to become a revitalised hub for our communities, including a new home for Capital E, the National Theatre for Children, and an arts and community hub. A revitalised Central Library will also continue to provide the same trusted library services that have served Wellington so well.”

Fleur says that maintaining access to libraries is one of the most important functions of Wellington City Council.

“Libraries continue a vital part of vibrant communities and as many people know they are still wildly popular, especially with some of the more vulnerable people in our society. 3,000 people used the Central Library every day before the closure.

“It’s not just a place to borrow books. People also use Wellington Libraries to access the latest technology, meet friends, or have some quiet space. You might be sharing the library with students who have no other access to the internet, new migrants communicating with their loved ones, or simply someone doing their life-long hobby by reading the latest novels – all for free.

“Our world needs libraries today more than ever. In an age of technology, growing inequality, social isolation, they are core social infrastructure. That’s why we are so committed to solving this.”

The Wellington Libraries Charter

1. Libraries will always be recognised as core social infrastructure.

2. The Council will retain full ownership of Library facilities and assets.

3. The Central Library will not be demolished unless there is no realistic alternative.

4. The strengthening or rebuilding work of the Central Library will result in devoted space for children to play and read, and for community groups to meet.

5. Wellington Libraries will improve access to services for children and their families including a tailored package of activities for pre-schoolers at each library.

6. Libraries will run a dedicated programme of events for school aged children during school holidays.

7. Te Reo Māori introduction sessions will operate throughout the library network.

8. There will be a renewed focus on digital literacy including by upgrading the computer network and digital literacy training aimed at those who do not have internet facilities at home, as part of a modern approach to delivery of library services.

9. The Library will continue to invest in new titles and electronic resources and develop partnerships with libraries across New Zealand and internationally to improve services to residents.

10. The suburban library opening hours will be reviewed with a view to improving weekend and evening services.


  1. Spinner, 15. July 2019, 12:28

    Will he won’t he?
    Wellington City needs the Central Library open, not a Charter.

  2. Concerned, 15. July 2019, 12:58

    I wonder why Labour Councillor Brian Dawson hasn’t joined his two fellow politicians in releasing this feel-good p.r. announcement? Noting that they joined together to avoid supporting the action plan to sort out Shelly Bay.

  3. Mathew Biars, 15. July 2019, 13:30

    1) The WCC didn’t have to close our ” core social infrastructure”.
    2) The new library charter is lame (in my opinion).
    If there is an earthquake and I’m anywhere near the Majestic with all that glass I’m toasted. I realize anything could fall on me in an earthquake there are no guarantees for safety in this life. Anyone who promises this in the event of an earthquake is not speaking the truth.

  4. Twerk, 15. July 2019, 16:59

    I’m sure it would work out cheaper and quicker to knock it down and rebuild it. You could use the same design, maybe tweak some things that did or didn’t work. Redirect the money from the white elephant convention centre. [You’re wrong about it being cheaper to rebuild – see this report on what a leading architect is saying. But you are right that money from the convention centre should be redirected to the library.]

  5. Leviathan, 15. July 2019, 17:15

    Twerk – and you know these things how? Because you are an expert?

  6. michael, 15. July 2019, 22:29

    Well Mr Lester, I have just attended the “Save it, or scrap it” meeting regarding the future of Wellington Central Library and heard a well known and respected structural engineer explain exactly how the library can be saved (at half the cost of rebuilding), and that it would be relatively easy to do.

    The huge crowd present made it known they supported canning the convention centre and getting on with saving the library ASAP. So Mr Lester, as there are no excuses to pull it down can we just get on with it now!!

    For anyone interested, the New Zealand Institute of Architects will be uploading a video of all the speakers to their website within the next few days. [And here’s our brief report of the meeting.]

  7. Twerk, 16. July 2019, 7:10

    Hey Levi, not an expert – just being cheeky really as anything the council costs lately seems to end up blowing out threefold by the time they get around to doing it or properly scoping it – there will be endless hand wringing and consultations before anything happens like the town hall.

  8. Brendan, 16. July 2019, 7:42

    Can I go in and get a book? Perhaps make it a self-service autonomous library with robots doing the dusting and cleaning. Perhaps a few Chernobyl styled humans would be willing to take the risk of going inside and do guided tours of the risky bits as a tourism venture. I’d be up for that! I’ll wear a sticker saying “no one needs to come in and rescue me” and I’ll sign a form.

  9. michael, 16. July 2019, 11:38

    Hey Twerk – I note it is council-assessed costs that seem to blow out because it takes years to make a decision. At the meeting last night, the Structural Engineer had consulted with a Quantity Surveyor, both of whom were experts in seismic structural engineering. And, even though the Structural Engineer made it clear it was a ball-park figure, it had not been done by licking a finger and taking a punt.

    Surely any effective and efficient council would want to take this further now, to see if they can get the library up and running quickly. But no . . we were told by the councillor there were many factors to be considered, and the public needed to decide what they wanted. Then I guess it will be a few more years before anything happens at four times the current cost.

    WCC I think the public has already made it clear, we want our library back ASAP, like now!!

  10. Twerk, 16. July 2019, 13:04

    Michael – interesting that there didn’t seem to be many factors considered before they forged ahead with the convention centre.

  11. Sarah, 16. July 2019, 14:49

    My daughter used to go to the central library after school to meet friends and do homework. Now she goes to McDonalds or just walks around.
    What is the city without a library?
    If a road or sewage plant is damaged we fix it. Why are we waiting? Just fix it.