Wellington Scoop

Lack of clarity and information in Library consultation document

by Inner City Wellington
Inner City Wellington (ICW) has found a number of issues in the Central Library Consultation document where information is not clear, making it difficult to objectively determine which option to choose. We are seeking clarification publicly as we believe it will not only be beneficial to us in making our submission, but also to others.

Of particular concern is the lack of clarity in terms and, for example as in relation to base-isolation, lack of information. Resilience is clearly the major reason we are even considering a new future for the Central Library, so clarity on this issue is critical. Although there is now comment on the website, the booklet does not clearly state that the ‘new build’ options do NOT include base isolation.


We note that “In the case of the two new building options there is no concept design. Accordingly the costs provided are based on industry square metre rates for a reasonable quality building”.

QUESTION: Does a “reasonable quality building” equate with the specific design requirements for a library building? Put another way, are the remediation options costed to the same ‘reasonable quality building’ estimates, or are the remediation designs costed to a higher quality?

QUESTION: If Option D or E is accepted, can we be confident that Council will ensure that the upper estimate of $160 million is retained as the upper limit for a new build? We are seeking assurance that when we are choosing between options, the costs for the new build won’t be significantly escalated post-consultation.



The website now states “The new build estimates do not include base isolation as the desired level of building resilience can be achieved in a new build without it. However, if the decision was made to base isolate a new building the additional cost would not be significant” and “The cost estimates for the new build option do include estimated demolition and removal costs.” As noted, neither of these statements are included in the Consultation booklet.

ISSUE: ICW has been advised by an engineer that without base isolation “the required level of life safety can be achieved but not an equivalent level of resilience/damage avoidance i.e. a conventional building is significantly more likely to require costly and lengthy repairs after a moderate or major earthquake” and “The additional cost of Base Isolation is typically estimated to be in the range of 5-10%”.

We note that this could take the new build up to $176m. Bearing in mind that a number of industry commentators have suggested that the base-isolation retrofit option has an inflated cost estimate, does this not mean that equivalent new and retrofitted, high resilience options are comparable in price?

QUESTION: Why in Option C is WCC pushing for the existing building to be base isolated, if less than this is acceptable for a new build?

QUESTION: Do the new build costs in fact include obtaining the same level of resilience/damage avoidance as has been costed in the remediation options?

QUESTION: What is the justification for the difference in wording between Option C “High level of building resilience with minimal risk of future building closures after a significant earthquake” and Options D and E “Design to high level of seismic resilience with minimal risk of further building closures after a significant earthquake”? Is there in fact no difference in outcomes between Options C, D and E in this regard?


ISSUE: We note that Option B has potential for improvement, Option C significant improvement, while Options D and E have ‘Opportunity to align with best practice standards’.

QUESTION: What information supports the judgement that only a new build can be aligned with best practice standards?

Improved sustainability

ISSUE: On page 15 it is stated that the performance of a new build would be superior to the existing building in relation to energy efficiency. This clearly conflicts with the next statement on page 16 which states that “Replacing building services will be included as part of any option. The new services will be equivalent in their performance as to what a new building would include. This means a remediated building will deliver similar energy efficiencies as a new building”.

QUESTION: What exactly does the foregoing mean? It seems to suggest that the new build is a better option even though the existing building’s services will be completely upgraded to a similar standard.

QUESTION: Given council must have had provision in their Long Term Maintenance Plan budget for replacing the stated services in the existing Library that are now at “end of life”, why has this provision not been shown as a plus against the cost of the remediation options?

QUESTION: In terms of sustainability would it not be appropriate to note the considerable environmental plus of not demolishing the existing structure, not only in reduction of landfill but also in the energy consumption in constructing a new building.

ISSUE: Under option E (pages28/29) the costs associated with the impact of the considerable delays of retaining the existing library and paying for its maintenance until it is sold or leased have not been identified.

QUESTION 1: What financial loss or costs could the ratepayers expect to bear under this option, where the existing building is to be sold or leased (possibly at less than market value)?

QUESTION 2: What are the costs to maintain the existing Library building while all these decisions are being made?

QUESTION 3: Why are these issues not identified as a possible negative impact in relation to this option in the same way that the possible negative impact of demolition is cited in relation to Option D?

Te Ngākau – Civic Square

ISSUE: Option E – New Build on another Te Ngākau Civic Precinct site has a stage to ‘identify and confirm a site which may take up to 18 months to resolve, and which would only be explored after public consultation. Therefore, should this option be accepted it would add another 18 months to the already long timeframe.’

QUESTION: Why are the possible sites in Civic Square not identified so the public can make a properly informed decision, especially when the one identifiable site is clearly Jack Ilott Green? Are there in fact any others?

We look forward to clarification on the issues we have raised and trust these will be forthcoming in a timely manner.

Inner City Wellington seeks to serve as a progressive and influential voice for the residential community in Te Aro and Wellington Central.


  1. michael, 4. August 2020, 13:23

    Well done ICW as you have raised some valid issues. I hope WCC are going to respond quickly as I would like to know the answers. I certainly did not know the new build was not going to be base-isolated, especially after all the noise from council about the remediation being done to that standard. I sense that consultation has been set up for a new build.

  2. Toni, 4. August 2020, 14:35

    I think it is crazy we are being asked to vote on a new build estimated at $160 million when there are no concept plans to make an informed decsion. If the new build option is voted in, then we could find that $160 million has become $200 million, which is likely if the convention centre is anything to go by. Already it seems that some of the figures and standards for the various options may be questionable. And, exactly what was the $2 million dollar budget given to council officers for in this regard?

  3. James, 4. August 2020, 15:17

    The new Christchurch library has a base isolation system and is almost the same size as the current Wellington Central Library but cost only $92.7 million to build.

  4. michael, 4. August 2020, 18:07

    @James, the Christchurch library building = 9850m2
    Overall Wellington’s central library building = 17,000m2

  5. Hel, 4. August 2020, 20:39

    Good questions. In terms of the new build not being base isolated in the proposal, this is just absurd! Why the Council would consider building a new library in this area without base isolating is simply stupid.

  6. Violet, 4. August 2020, 20:50

    Thanks for the scrutiny ICW. It’s hard for laypeople like me to pick up on this stuff.

  7. Tui, 5. August 2020, 9:41

    @James: The new Christchurch library is not base isolated either so you’re wrong on both fronts there mate. It’s actually a good example of modern damage-resistant design using methods other than base isolation. It uses rocking walls, with viscous dampers to dissipate energy.

  8. JCB, 5. August 2020, 11:57

    Tui: I’d just like to point out that rocking walls and viscous dampers are a form of base isolation – a seismic solution that reduces the effect of ground acceleration forces. Not everything has to look like a giant rubber box.

  9. Toni, 6. August 2020, 9:35

    Assuming the WCC does answer these questions, I hope they post them here?