Wellington Scoop

City council confirms preference for strengthening Central Library

The Wellington City Council has responded to questions from Inner City Wellington that were set out in an open letter on August 4. ICW was concerned about lack of clarity in the consultation document for the Central Library. Following are the ICW concerns and questions, with the council’s response in bold.

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”.

1. 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?

The new build costings were provided for the purposes of context and comparison and are not based on any specific design. The estimates are based on industry square metre (sqm)rates for a building of a reasonable quality that would be suitable for a library. The new buildingcost estimates are for a building of a comparable size.

2. QUESTION: If Option D or E is accepted, can we be assured 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.

If Option D or E is chosen, Council will use $160m as the budget for the Long-Term Plan (LTP). However as noted above this estimate is based on sqm rates and not a detailed design. These estimates provide for cost escalation.


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 the foregoing 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?

3. 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?

Council’s preferred option is a highly resilient strengthening of the Central Library building. Base isolation, in conjunction with other strengthening components, would achieve the most resilient remediation solution for the existing building. A new building design (Option D or E) could achieve the desired level of building resilience without base isolation. However, if the decision was made to base isolate a new building,the impact on the cost estimate range is unlikely to be significant.

4. 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?

No design has been developed for a new building however these costs are based on standard industry sqm rates fora reasonable quality building designed to a high level of resilience.Options C, D, and E all seek to achieve a high level of building resilience.

5. 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?

Although there are no new build designs (for Options D and E) at this stage,Options C, D, and E all seek to achieve a high level of building resilience.

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

Under the remediation options accessible design elements would be incorporated wherever possible. These opportunities are constrained by an existing building and accordingly cannot be assured of best practice. A new building provides a blank canvas and therefore opportunities to design it in a way that achieves best practice outcomes for accessibility and sustainability.

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”.

7. 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.

Although building services are a significant contributor to a sustainable building, they are not the only elements that contribute to a building’s sustainability.A new build would provide greater opportunities to introduce sustainability elements as these can be incorporated into the building’s designand materials. Under the remediation options energy efficiencyand sustainable practiceswould be incorporated wherever possible including replacing building services.

9. 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.

Under Option D on page 25 of the Statement of Proposal we reflect this as one of the disadvantages–“Negative impact on sustainability objectives due to demolition.”

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.

10. 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)?

The costs or revenue associated with resolving the future of the existing building are unknown. The objective would be to minimise the impact to the ratepayer. There could be revenue available from the sale or lease of the building that could offset the costs.

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

While the operating costs for the building have significantly reduced since its closure, there are some costs that must be maintained for a building when it is closed. These include rates, insurance, security and some utilities costs

12. 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?

These issues have been clearly identified in the SOP description of Option E. The future of the building needing to be resolved is listed as a disadvantage.

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.’

13. 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 any others?

If Option E is chosen,the time frame includes identification of potential sites and associated public consultation.


  1. Hel, 15. August 2020, 18:20

    There is an oddity regarding the Council preference to strengthen the existing building to the fullest extent. It is clear that a new build will be cheaper, more resilient, more efficient and with better accessibility, utility and ability to contribute to Civic Square.

  2. michael, 15. August 2020, 22:21

    The WCC answer to Question 13 (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 any others?) is pure avoidance as it is fairly clear that the only realistic option for a new build on another site is Jack Ilott Green. So why not be honest about this? Is it because of the huge public backlash and petition several years ago when the council tried to sell the park off to a developer? Are they hoping it will be number 1 choice which would then give them the opportunity to get rid of more vital green space?

  3. Toni, 16. August 2020, 10:51

    Hel that is assuming the costings for the new build are correct and the costings for the existing library are not inflated as many experts in the industry are suggesting. Not only that – the costs for the existing library are not just for strengthening but also for a total revamp and structural changes to the shape of the building. It is also for base isolation, the new build is not.
    When questioned about keeping the budget to $160 million, the WCC states that the “Council will use $160m as the budget for the Long-Term Plan (LTP). However as noted above this estimate is based on sqm rates and not a detailed design. These estimates provide for cost escalation”. If the convention centre is anything to go by, the final costs could be far more than estimated.
    We only have figures put together by WCC officers (who seem to have their own agenda) and, without showing any independant costings or design concepts to back these estimates up, we are expected to make an informed decision? Ridiculous.

  4. Dave, 16. August 2020, 13:22

    Whatever number for whichever option is given, you can be sure it will take longer and the cost will be higher. Just look at anything they have been involved in. For example, the Town Hall. It was originally $48M, then $90M then $120M. It will be well north of that again. The Convention Centre was supposed to be $50m in 2014 and now it’s $179M.

  5. Polly, 19. August 2020, 13:08

    Dave, In 2012/13 the WCC funded a plan for Positively Wellington Venues to refurbish the TSB Arena and Shed 6 as replacement venues for the Town Hall while it was being earthquake strengthened. The Town Hall restrengthening budget was $43.7m. In February 2019 the Council announced the cost had gone up to $112million and the final bill would end up tripling the original budget approved in 2013.

  6. wendy, 24. August 2020, 13:48

    This may answer many of our questions.
    Our Library: Strengthen and refurbish? Or rebuild?
    Wellington Civic Trust and the Urban Development Institute bring you Our Library – the debate.
    Are you happy with spending over $200 million on re-strengthening the building? Does this project deserve closer scrutiny? Come along and share your views.