Wellington Scoop

Saving and strengthening the Library – early access is possible, at less cost, says engineer

A packed public meeting last night heard a leading architect and a leading structural engineer insist that Wellington’s Central Library can be strengthened and reopened. And they estimated a cost considerably less than the $100million stated by Mayor Justin Lester at the weekend.

Architect Gordon Moller, noting that a million people a year used the library, said: “It has not been damaged. It can be remediated.”

He said the cost of strengthening could be half the figure of $100million quoted by Justin Lester. On the other hand, “the cost of demolishing and constructing a new building could cost twice as much.”

Moller, who is a gold medallist of the Institute of Architects and who worked on the design of Civic Square with Ian Athfield, said to demolish the library “would be to erode a fine piece of urban design and a fine piece of architecture.”

He went on: “I say it must be saved.”

Structural engineer Adam Thornton, with 40 years’ experience in multi-storey seismic design, said the hollow-core floors would be “an easy mode to repair,” by adding bracing which would be relatively straightforward to install. He said base isolation would not be complicated to add, as the library has a basement which would provide suitable space for the new technology.

Work would also be needed to strengthen the stairs, and to secure panels on the Victoria Street facade.

He estimated the total strengthening cost, including base isolators, would be $68million.

The work could be done in stages, he said, to allow for early re-entry to the library.

“The work could get underway in a couple of months, if there was the will to do it.”

Cr Iona Pannett, the last speaker, said: “We’re getting the message. People want the library re-opened as soon as possible. Politicians need to listen.” But she did not believe that the council would make a decision on the library till after the October elections. And one issue, she said, would be: “How are we going to pay for it.”

Asked if construction of the convention centre could be stopped, so that the budgetted money could instead be made available for the library, she said this would not be possible.

Kevin Lavery: No decisions on the Library for well over a year


  1. michael, 16. July 2019, 0:53

    We have Mr Lavery telling us there will be no decision on the library for over a year!! We have the Mayor telling us it will be saved if possible. Yet, we have a well-known and experienced structural engineer telling us it can be remedied relatively easy.
    So why do we have to wait, why does this have to drag on when 1 million people a year use the library and want it back. It is so frustrating to think that this time next year we will no doubt be no further on regarding the library, and if the town hall is anything to go by, we will be still waiting in 10 years.

    Then we get told by the WCC councillor present that it is up to us (the ratepayers) to decide what we want, that we have to decide how we are going to pay for it. So, a suggestion, greeted with loud applause, that the convention centre be stopped to pay for the library was rejected by the councillor who told us the convention centre was being built to make money to pay for things like the library. Well that statement generated a lot of laughs.

  2. Andrew S, 16. July 2019, 8:09

    Yes its a great idea to reopen the undamaged library .

  3. Donald T., 16. July 2019, 9:40

    Ken Lavery is not paid enough to make a decision within a year. He’s only on half a million dollars. Real decision makers are on at least ten times that amount. We need to pay the Kens of this world millions more to get decisions made quickly and with performance ‘bonuses’ attached.

  4. Iona Pannett, 16. July 2019, 10:35

    I favour heritage protection for our library and agree that it is indeed a fine piece of architecture. [via twitter]

  5. Money Castle, 16. July 2019, 13:00

    @Iona P – Heritage – you mean just like Erskine College? Didn’t that building have a heritage listing but the WCC let the developer just let it rot so much that he got permission to flatten it.

  6. Mathew Biars, 16. July 2019, 13:05

    Things don’t have to be “heritage” in order to be kept or to be valued. The undamaged library should be reopened.
    I note Iona your words fall short as the council have failed to protect a beautiful heritage building on Rugby Street that’s now in the landfill.

  7. Michael Gibson, 16. July 2019, 17:44

    As the manager of the owners who sold Erskine to the present owner, I can confirm what Money Castle says.
    I can also confirm that the Council was so keen on the site being developed that it would not approve our plan for saving the College from destruction,
    Please keep on your toes, Iona!

  8. Russel C., 16. July 2019, 17:57

    Hey Donald T. it’s Kev not Ken! Get your facts right and don’t besmirch the Kens of this world. I recall a movie about a Australian Ken who sorted out dysfunctional Australian lavatories for not much money. I can’t see Kev doing that can you? He’d take too long!

  9. John Doe, 17. July 2019, 5:45

    Asking sincerely: do the architects or engineers commenting on the ability to save the library in these forums have access to any of the studies assessing present building conditions — the kind of work WCC and engineers would be doing now (presumably hoping to find any feasible way to address problems in order to open as soon as possible)? Lots of arguments presented mention the historic nature of the building and the important work of Athfield as well as the desire to have a functioning central library — seems like the WCC would be just as interested in preserving the space if it could be done safely and is financially possible, as demolition would be a political nightmare.