Wellington Scoop

Choosing expansion for the Central Library

library option 3a

This 17-storey tower on top of the Central Library is one of three options for the building to be considered by Wellington city councillors at a meeting next week. The options are included in a paper in which staff make recommendations about “building print optimisation and sustainability options.”

The addition of a tower is not the option which staff are recommending.

Staff list its drawbacks as:

• high planning risk with district plan height plane changes required;
• heritage and consent implications, these are particularly relevant now that the building has been listed;
• visual impact on Central Library and surrounding area;
• extensive impact on the proposed structural design;
• estimated 18 month programme impact; not including the potential for legal challenge;
• prohibitive cost which is not feasible within the context of the draft LTP

library option 1a

This is the option being recommended by staff. It extends levels 3 and 4 of the building across the existing roof line by adding an 8m extension for each floor – adding 880sqm of additional usable space and taking the total useable area across the two floors from 2,300sqm to 3,180 sqm.39.

Staff say the existing configuration of levels 3 and 4 is not optimal due to the narrow corridor created by the lift core on the Te Ngākau side of the building – therefore this extension option creates a much more efficient floor plate with the core (lifts and stairs) being almost centred.

Some of the other benefits of this proposed extension would be:

• minimal visual impact from Te Ngākau and Harris St;
• low risk from a resource consent perspective;
• no shading impact on Te Ngākau;
• no additional structural work over and above the proposed Option C scheme;
• minimal impact on the building services;
• skylights retained in existing location;
• some rooftop space is retained for other use such as a rooftop garden.

library option 2a

This option, adding an extra floor, is also not recommended by staff, because

• additional structural work would be required to accommodate the increase in weight loading;
• the extension would have some visual impact from Civic Square and Harris Street;
• the bulk and height of the extension could mean some risk to planning approval;
• significant increase in cost;
• additional bathroom facilities required to meet occupancy standards;
• full rebuild of services layout and a new plant room required.

Staff say the option that they are recommending would achieve a 5 Green Star rating, and would achieve the Council’s sustainability priorities through the following interventions:

•no natural gas;
•rooftop solar panels;
•allowance for green spaces / ecological diversity via a roof garden, green wall and/or landscaping (to be determined);
•environmental resiliency with core services moved out of the basement and the majority of the ground floor raised;
•low carbon refrigerants used;
•water sustainability via rainwater harvesting (puts less load on stormwater system – increases resilience);
•sustainable transport hub to encourage cycling, plus charging for electric cars.

These proposals would generate 15-20% energy saving and 30% less greenhouse gas emissions – this would equate to approximately $35k in energy savings per year.

The recommended option will have these benefits, as summarised by staff:

Design for the visitor:
i. “whole of population” inclusion: traditional, new and future users;
ii. facilitating access to knowledge and knowledge services;
iii. anchoring social infrastructure in the city.

Harness the power of partnership:
i.through an integrated (not just co-located) service from Libraries, City Archive and Council Service Centre;
ii.as the home of Capital E.

Design a visitor experience that is modern, fit for the future, and Wellington:
i.a spatially flexible, accessible, modern environment speaking strongly of Wellington;
ii.a hub of creative, civic, and humanities activities and a visitor attraction in its own right;
iii.designed to evolve in response to ongoing digital and population change.

The estimated cost of the extension of levels 3 and 4 will require additional funding in the 2021-31 Long-term Plan of $8.5m and the impact on the construction programme is approximately 3 months.


  1. Greenwelly, 9. April 2021, 9:35

    Hang on a minute, we have just been through a process of deciding to keep the Library vs a new build, with council voting to repair the existing building at a cost difference of $`1 million over a new build. But now council officers are saying “the Library needs to be bigger, and we need to spend more millions on expanding parts of it…” Were these expansion plans presented in the consideration of keeping the building vs a new one?

  2. Concerned Wellingtonian, 9. April 2021, 9:53

    Greenwelly, what a good point! You have to follow things pretty closely to find out who is trying to slip something through.

  3. Andrewj, 9. April 2021, 10:10

    Classic feature creep. What next, a rooftop pool? Who asked the officers to investigate adding a tower block to the top of the library, or any expansion for that matter?

  4. Wet Blanket, 9. April 2021, 10:36

    Where has this sprung from? It wasn’t mentioned during the furore surrounding demolishing and “privatising” the library. How does it sit alongside the heritage status of the building?

  5. Dave B, 9. April 2021, 11:29

    What is wrong with these people? Now is not the time for more vanity projects. Fix the library as-is, by doing only what is required to satisfy the safety-concerns that led to its closure in the first place. Then get on with fixing the problems of basic infrastructure neglect (which, it seems, have arisen because of an excessive focus on vanity projects in the past).

  6. James S, 9. April 2021, 12:37

    Why was this not included in the questions highlighted for consultation in the draft Long-Term Plan?

  7. Alana, 9. April 2021, 12:59

    I think some priority should be given to library staff consultation, too. I hope there is a specific plan to organise serious consultation with them and their views for future needs for a modern library.

  8. K, 9. April 2021, 16:02

    Laughing at the two gigantic extensions being included as proposals: they fit the classic underhanded tactic of being so over the top ludicrous that it makes the “recommended” option look reasonable, despite the fact no one was aware that there was an extension being proposed in the first place.

  9. Toni, 9. April 2021, 16:29

    I have no idea why we ever bother to engage in public consultation because WCC clearly has its own agenda.

  10. Ms Green, 9. April 2021, 16:43

    The Council chose the most complex of all the options for the Library. It did not choose to fix it, which it could have done relatively easily, and had it reopened years ago. It did not choose a relatively straightforward new build. It chose the most costly ‘nice to have’ strengthening, which will keep the library closed for years. On the basis of a tickbox-biased consultation, the results of which have since been misrepresented, it chose to base isolate, despite the fact that the library was never assessed as ‘earthquake prone’ and sits on rock without threat of liquefaction according to engineers’ reports. And yes the option chosen by the Council did include adding on to the roof space.

    By the way if you knew what I know about the Town Hall project and its 462 new piles (according to the mayor), cost blowouts, its existing structural strength being taken apart, etc. etc. you would be horrified. It has stood for 115 years through thousands of earthquakes without all of this and even without having any earthquake rating assessed: “Town Hall Earthquake rating, Not recorded” ( quoted directly from the list of earthquake prone buildings in Wellington). This Council is out of control.

  11. Groggy, 9. April 2021, 17:00

    Alana, surely you jest. Why consult the people who actually use the building? They might have some good ideas that would conflict with some developer’s dream. Our rates have (no doubt handsomely) paid for someone to come up with this rubbish that was neither wanted nor needed.

  12. Local, 9. April 2021, 17:11

    rooftop solar panels; allowance for green spaces / ecological diversity via a roof garden, green wall and/or landscaping (to be determined); water sustainability via rainwater harvesting (puts less load on stormwater system – increases resilience). I don’t believe a word of this. The Council has had a roof top space for a garden up there since the Library was built and could have done this a long time ago, except it was told the roof wouldn’t sustain it. It’s going to service the library with tank water? Where will the tanks go?

  13. Upset ratepayer, 9. April 2021, 17:42

    This beggars belief. We have a published document on the contents of the long term plan which is about to go to public consultation and debate by all AND here we have Council employee/s promoting another high cost dream. Either there is another hidden agenda or the Council staff are being totally disrespectful to the ratepayers. I suggest that the time has come for proper managerial controls applied to all staff.

  14. Thomas Coughlan, 10. April 2021, 12:56

    On one hand, this seems a bit nuts, but on the other, I’d love to live in an apartment above the library. [via twitter]

  15. Ben Schrader, 10. April 2021, 14:00

    It kind of appeals to me as well Thomas – however impractical. You’d be able to say to guests: ‘Come and see my library.’

  16. Claire, 10. April 2021, 14:37

    Ben can you explain why you think it’s impractical. I have always followed your commonsense comments.

  17. Ben Schrader, 10. April 2021, 18:20

    I think the main reason it’s impractical Claire is that a residential tower would change the scale and mass of the buildings about the Te Ngākau Civic Square. At the moment they’re all relatively low-rise and that allows plenty of sunlight into the space. Building high-rise buildings (allowing one could lead to more) would almost certainly increase shading, making it less inviting to spend time in. High-rises could also make the Square more prone to wind – downdrafts, eddies etc.

    That said, further apartment buildings in the immediate environs would increase the number of people using the square on a daily basis and help make it the lively space we all want it to be.

  18. greenwelly, 11. April 2021, 10:01

    Ben. If it’s so out of scale, why are Council officers even considering putting it forward? Everyone can see it’s a straw man a mile away. If Councillors don’t throw out ALL of these proposals, then they are equally guilty of totally disrespecting the LTP process (which we are still in the middle of) and which they have just spent months slinging arrows at each other over.

  19. Toni, 11. April 2021, 10:43

    I thought the last lot of proposals that went to consultation was the end of the process and they were just going to get on with it, but clearly not. Perhaps this is just more delaying tactics?

  20. Ben Schrader, 11. April 2021, 10:59

    Maybe the officers were being whimsical. A more likely reason is that it was a diversionary tactic to get support for the option they most want to advance – option 2.

  21. Claire, 11. April 2021, 11:41

    Thanks Ben let’s hope the extent of the DSP is also whimsical – big buildings in amongst one-storey cottages in Newtown.

  22. D'Esterre, 11. April 2021, 17:47

    Toni: “I have no idea why we bother to engage in public consultation because WCC clearly has its own agenda.” Exactly. We participate in good faith, then this proposal comes at us, out of the blue. Why does WCC do this to us? It looks like some fantasy dreamed up by Council officers who know nothing about engineering requirements and do not care a toss about the ratepayers who would be obliged to fund this monstrosity.

    A residential tower is a pipe dream. It could not be constructed as shown, because the library building wasn’t designed to accommodate the weight of a structure of that sort.

  23. Daniel, 11. April 2021, 18:45

    Since the DSP has found its way into this comment thread, there’s a great quote in a DomPost article today: “…they are quite wealthy neighbourhoods whose residents have become adept at repurposing the language of social justice to preserve income inequality and segregation in the places where they live.” The takeaway for me is, just as some on another article here are struggling to move beyond a simple dictionary definition of decolonisation, those opposed to densification are similarly speaking from unconscious beliefs.

  24. Claire, 11. April 2021, 19:50

    Daniel nearly everyone wants more housing.! The objection from more than half of a wellington is WHERE. ChCh is proposing land rates and targeting carparks and so must Wellington. A six storey building in the middle of one storey houses is ridiculous. But is cheaper to achieve. So it’s lazy on behalf of the WCC and Govt. Acquiring land on the main transport routes is the way to go.

  25. D'Esterre, 12. April 2021, 0:07

    Ben Schrader: “…a diversionary tactic to get support for the option they most want to advance – option 2.” That’s how we in this household see it. Which of course doesn’t make it any less disingenuous. It’s still come out of the blue. There’s been no prior mention even of this option.

    Claire: “…let’s hope the extent of the DSP is also whimsical – big buildings in amongst one-storey cottages in Newtown.” I’m sure that we don’t pay Council staff to be whimsical. I hope that you’re right, but it looks as if WCC is all too serious about this project, regardless of whether they risk the creation of further slums. When I first came to Wellington as a student in the 60s, much of Mt Vic fitted the definition of “slum”. Now look at it.

    Daniel: “…struggling to move beyond a simple dictionary definition of decolonisation…” The only definition of decolonisation IS that in the dictionary. All else is revisionism.

  26. Daniel, 12. April 2021, 9:07

    Claire: I believe you are proving the point of the article.
    D’Esterre: dictionary definitions never change? I guess you must be tuning into Scoop over the wireless (1920s edition).

  27. Grass Grub, 12. April 2021, 9:42

    Daniel, just because some trendy academics have hijacked a term to justify their university funding this doesn’t change the meaning. Perhaps they should have chosen a less divisive and negative term such as Imagining Inclusivity.

  28. Claire, 12. April 2021, 9:45

    Daniel I live in Newtown – a working-class suburb. Only increased in value because people bought cheaply long ago and did houses up. No one would be suggesting houses be demolished here if it was a wealthy suburb. Newtown and Berhampore (if you look at the DSP maps) have the largest area in the demolish zone. All that is wanted is proper design, not willy nilly dropping of large buildings.

  29. Daniel, 12. April 2021, 11:53

    Grass Grub, who are these trendy academics you speak of? The concepts that an umbrella term like decolonisation covers seem new to you — but discussion in academia and elsewhere on this topic has been occurring for decades. A change in direction is a trend, sure, but this is simply a move against what was an even bigger trend of colonisation.

    Claire, I live in Berhampore and welcome further density. I see the suburb as part of a broader ecosystem, only able to thrive if it acts generously and embraces densification. I honestly don’t understand what is “ridiculous” about high buildings next to low ones? Berhampore, like Newtown, is no longer a working-class suburb and has not been for a long time. Even the Wikipedia entry for Newtown has this right up-front: “Originally a working-class suburb, Newtown has followed gentrification trends in recent years, attracting large numbers of immigrants, students and young professionals and resulting in an ethnically diverse population.”

  30. D'Esterre, 12. April 2021, 12:54

    Claire: “Only increased in value because people bought cheaply long ago and did houses up.” Exactly. Near as I can tell, that’s also what happened to those parts of Mt Vic that were so down-at-heel in the 1960s. I completely agree with you. Let’s be having some consideration for the lovely old houses in Newtown and Berhampore, and for the people who own and treasure them. Then let’s have some thought put into design, where demolition must occur, bearing in mind the residents in the surrounding area.

    Grass Grub: “…just because some trendy academics have hijacked a term…..this doesn’t change the meaning.” Exactly. It’s a bit Orwellian, isn’t it.

    “….a less divisive and negative term such as Imagining Inclusivity.” Yes indeed. My suggestion is “whimsy”. And I wasn’t being entirely facetious in suggesting it.

  31. Meredith, 12. April 2021, 13:15

    Now where were we? In the Library? Oh no. It’s closed. On top of the Library? Oh no. There’s something else there? I thought all we wanted was the Library fixed and opened. Now it’s becoming what? For whom? Why?

  32. michael, 12. April 2021, 17:30

    What is happening and when? I wonder if the WCC actually knows? It seems like it is going to be like LGWM and go on for years without a decision.

  33. Gwynneth Jansen, 13. April 2021, 9:17

    What else are you going to sneak in, WCC officers?

    It is dispiriting to respond to consultation documents thoughtfully and in good faith to find that the goalposts have shifted and there are more proposals added. This will soon have the desired result of little or no feedback. Perhaps then the council will stop parking issues by putting them in an never ending feedback loop – yes, we’ve noticed – and actually get on with making decisions.

  34. Meredith, 17. April 2021, 9:10

    We wait and we wait and we wait. Will the library/Te Matapihi o te ao nui be reopened before the elections? No? Why not?