Wellington Library.

PHOTO: Wellington Library. Photo: CC BY 2.0

The reconstruction of Wellington Central Library, priced at $189 million, is proceeding smoothly, offering reassurance to local ratepayers. In contrast to the challenges faced by the Town Hall upgrade, the city council assured RNZ that no significant project difficulties or risks have been identified, expressing overall confidence in the progress.

Despite uncertainties about the existing piles’ foundation revealed in a recent geotechnical report, the newly installed piles for the library are completed, showcasing a stable ground compared to the nearby Town Hall. The council reported that the project is on schedule and within the approved budget, providing a rare positive note in the increasingly precarious Te Ngākau Civic Square.

While neighboring structures face issues such as earthquake-prone notices and impending demolitions, the Te Matapihi library project has successfully navigated potential challenges. The geotechnical conditions at Te Matapihi are more favorable, with a shallower rock layer and minimal concerns below the water table, primarily limited to the lift pits.

Unlike the Town Hall project, which has undergone multiple reviews, Te Matapihi has not required specific project reviews or legal scrutiny, as it progresses according to plan. Engineers acknowledge the presence of an underground alluvial stream near the library, but overall, the project has encountered minimal complications.

The completed piling work, detection of low-level soil contamination (deemed non-concerning), and the absence of liquefaction potential contribute to a smooth project trajectory. The decision to preserve the 1991 building, recognized as the city’s youngest Category 1 historic site, appears justified, contrasting with the challenges faced by the adjacent orange administration block.

Efforts are underway to secure funding for the demolition of the admin block, left deserted for five years. Meanwhile, discussions continue regarding the future of the 1950s municipal office building between the admin block and the Town Hall, emphasizing its potential redevelopment or strengthening.

Councillor Tim Brown emphasized the critical role of resolving issues with both buildings for the successful completion of the Town Hall project. Plans for the entire square, including a redevelopment tender opening before Christmas, aim to rejuvenate Te Ngākau Civic Square, with height limits set based on the library, lower than the municipal block.