Central Library closure

Since the Central Library closed, we have opened three interim library branches and made the collection available for people to order items which they can pick up from their local branch. Learn more about this, and the plans for restoring the future Central Library service below.

Latest news

Strategy and Policy Committee update

On Thursday 15 April 2021 the proposed design and service principles to guide the operating and service development model for the refurbished Central Library were presented to the Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee Council for adoption. The Committee was also presented with options for developing the building’s upper floors and sustainability.

The design principles were developed through early engagement with Mana Whenua, key stakeholders, and potential partners, and our library teams. They also align to the draft design principles for Te Ngākau Civic Precinct. 

At the meeting the Committee agreed to: 

  • the design principles outlined below: 
  • Engage fully with Mana Whenua. This included an amendment to use the Library’s te reo name “Te Matapihi ki te Ao Nui” from now on.
  • Design for the visitor:
    • a. "whole of population" inclusion: traditional, new and future users
    • b. facilitating access to knowledge and knowledge services
    • c. anchoring social infrastructure in the city. 
  • Harness the power of partnership: 
    • a. through an integrated (not just co-located) service from Libraries, City Archive and Council Service Centre
    • b. as the home of Capital E.
  • Design a visitor experience that is modern, fit for the future, and Wellington:
    • a. a spatially flexible, accessible, modern environment speaking strongly of Wellington
    • b. a hub of creative, civic, and humanities activities and a visitor attraction in its own right
    • c. designed to evolve in response to ongoing digital and population change. 
  • extend levels 3 and 4 of Te Matapihi as outlined in the report. The estimated cost of $8.5m would require additional funding in the 2021-31 Long-term Plan and add an estimated three months work to the construction programme.
  • progress sustainability initiatives within the design of the building, with the objective of obtaining a 5 Green Star rating. This is estimated to require additional Long-term Plan funding of $1.9m. 

Following an oral submission by Claire Mabey of Verb Wellington, and Juliet Blyth of ReadNZ, who spoke on behalf of Te Ha, ReadNZ, Booksellers, Publisher’s Association and Verb Wellington, the Mayor put forward an amendment for officers to work with partners to investigate creating a dedicated space for a Literary Hub within the building, which was also adopted.

The options to extend levels three and four will now be included in the next phase of the design process which is currently underway. We will share more information on the process in the coming months. 

Council decision on future on the Central Library

On Wednesday 28 October 2020 Council debated whether to strengthen or build a new Central Library for the city. The Council adopted Option C to remediate the current building to the highest level of resilience. 

Council officers published a Council paper which recommended Option C to remediate the building to the highest level. This advice was based on the information gained from the public consultation process and the progression of the design and engineering work, which builds on the information available at the time the Statement of Proposal was published.

Option C was recommended over Option D (new build on the same site) as: 

  • the margin between the publics’ preferences was small - 11% higher for Option D in submissions and 1% in the survey. 
  • the previous cost difference of $39.1m between Option C and D, has reduced to $4.6m (at the top of the range) 
  • the more detailed design process has provided reassurance it is possible to remediate the building and create a modern, future proofed library, similar to a new build
  • to remove the risk of delays due to legal challenges regarding the perceived heritage value of the building under Option D
  • demolition of the building does not contribute to sustainability outcomes. 

Council recommended Option C to be incorporated in the draft Long-Term Plan (LTP) which was adopted on 28 October 2020. This allows the officers to continue working on the design and service level brief, including engaging with stakeholders. The results will now be presented Councillors in March 2021 for approval. This also provides the public another opportunity to consider the project alongside the Council’s financial position and other priorities for our city, including Three Waters and Let’s Get Wellington Moving.

The LTP consultation will begin in March 2021 and will describe Option C in more detail, alongside updated information for all the other options which were considered. In June 2021 the Council will consider the consultation results and make the final decision on the project to be included in the final LTP.

You can read the paper (included in the Council meeting agenda) on our website: https://wellington.govt.nz/your-council/meetings/committees/strategy-and-policy-committee/2020/10/28

The meeting was also livestreamed on the Council’s YouTube channel.

Below you can read the revised reports from the external engineers, architects and quantity surveyors. 

Note: The changed information in the above reports is shown in red text, and information that is no longer relevant has been struck through.

Restoring the Central library service

The Central Library was not damaged in the Christchurch and Kaikoura earthquakes, however it was re-assessed after a change to the Government’s seismic performance assessment criteria guidelines for buildings. A decision was made to close the building on 19 March 2019, including the public car park and the footpath around the library. 

As this closure affected the thousands of people who visited the library every day, our focus has been on setting up an interim network of replacement libraries in the CBD, while progressing engineering and design work to inform options for how the future Central Library could be provided. This involved : 

  • Investigating and developing options for the library so the Council can make a decision on the future of the building in October 2020. This involved engineering, architecture and building experts to provide advice and carry out peer reviews of the options proposed. 
  • Designing and opening three smaller libraries in the CBD. Arapaki Manners Library and He Matapihi Molesworth Library opened in April and October 2019 respectively. Te Awe Library in Brandon Street opened on l 14 July 2020 which was delayed due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
  • Designing and opening a Collection and Distribution Centre (CDC) in Johnsonville to house the remaining Central Library collection. Customers can reserve items from the CDC through the online library catalogue for free. Items are then sent to the library branch of the customers’ choice for pick up.
  • Installed a new hoarding and artwork around the building which celebrates the life of J.C. Sturm, also known as Jacquie Baxter. This artwork provides vibrancy to the area as we work through the long term future of the building and Te Ngākau — Civic Precinct.

You can read the full timeline on the Wellington City Libraries website.

Options for the future of the Central Library

We investigated the future options for Central Library services so that the Council can consider this alongside the proposed options for the Central Library building. We planned to take the summary of options to Council in on 24 March to allow them to make informed decisions on the future development of Te Ngākau Civic Precinct as a whole.  

This is because the future of the Central Library is part of the Council’s bigger Te Ngākau – Civic Precinct redevelopment programme of work. This focuses on how buildings in the Precinct are affected by the new seismic performance assessment criteria guidelines. Most will require strengthening and redevelopment works, services upgrades and varying levels of redevelopment to ensure that: 

  • minimum service levels (the standard of services provided to the occupants for amenities and maintenance) can be maintained
  • buildings are compliant and fit for purpose.

You can read more on our website about the redevelopment of Te Ngākau – Civic Precinct.

The Council meeting planned for 24 March was deferred due to the COVID-19 lockdown.

In light of the effects of COVID-19, a revised paper focused solely on providing the range of scenarios available to strengthen and refurbish the Central Library, and options to provide Central Library services was presented to Council on Wednesday 27 May. At the meeting, the Mayor and Councillors were also asked to approve an extensive public engagement programme to ensure the wishes of Wellingtonians are built into any decisions made on the building and the service. 

At the meeting Councillors requested officers to investigate options to speed up the decision-making process and report back the following week.  

On Wednesday 3 June the Mayor and Councillors were presented with an expedited process and timelines for decision-making for the Central Library (link below). This approach was approved, along with the high level public engagement and consultation programme to ensure the wishes of Wellingtonians are built into any decisions made on the building and the service for approval.  

The public consultation ran from 27 July until 5pm, Monday 7 September, which you can learn about at https://www.letstalk.wellington.govt.nz/central-library 

The results of consultation, along with the progressed design and cost estimates are being presented to Council on Wednesday 28 October. Council is recommending Option C to remediate the building to the highest level, to be incorporated in the draft Long-Term Plan (LTP).

Read the Council paper  

You can find information about the closure and what’s happening to our services on Wellington City Libraries’ website.

Earlier updates on Central Library

Media release – September 2020

Strong interest in the Central Library consultation

Media release – August 2020

Sign-up to the online Central Library consultation events

Media release – 27 July 2020

Share your views on the future of the Central Library

Media Release – 21 July 2020

Amendments to Statement of Proposal on the future Central Library

Media release – 16 July 2020

Council Statement on the future of the Central Library

Updates from 27 May and 3 June 2020

On Wednesday 27 May, Wellington City Council considered information on the range of scenarios available to strengthen and refurbish the Central Library, alongside other options to accommodate Central Library services. Councillors requested officers to investigate options to speed up the decision-making process and report back the following week.  

On Wednesday 3 June,  the Mayor and Councillors were presented with an expedited process and timelines for decision-making for the Central Library (link below). This approach was approved, along with the high level public engagement programme. You can read the Council papers, media release and options for the remediating the service and building.


Estimated cost summaries for each solution provided by an independent Quantity surveyor: 

Media Release 22 May 2020

Council to set direction for future Central Library services

Message from the Chief Executive 31 July 2019.

We’re pleased to announce that Professor Ken Elwood, Faculty of Engineering, The University of Auckland, has agreed to lead the process of facilitating a group of construction and engineering industry experts in finding the right way forward for the Central Library building.

Read the full statement Prof Elwood to lead Central Library experts.

Message from the Chief Executive 12 July 2019

Given the high public interest in the Central Library building, as well as the broader Civic Precinct, what follows is an update on where we are at with this work and an indication of the process from here.  

Read the full statement (470KB PDF)

— Kevin Lavery, Chief Executive

Engineering Assessment Memo  (1.9MB PDF)
Aurecon Engineering Assessment  (317KB PDF)
WSP OPUS Peer Review of Assessment (861KB PDF)


Accessing library services and facilities

You can find information about where to access our interim libraries in the city centre, and reserve books from the CDC at the Wellington City Libraries website.

Details about the closure
Wellington Central Library closure map  (768KB PDF)
Library branches in the central city and Suburbs
Library opening hours
Community centres

Citizens Advice Bureau and Justice of the Peace service desk

These services are available at the James Smith Building on the corner of Manners Street and Cuba. You can reach them on 04 472 2466 or www.cab.org.nz.

Citizen Advice Bureau hours are:

  • Monday: 9.30am-5.15pm
  • Tuesday to Thursday: 930am-6.30pm
  • Friday: 9.30am-3.30pm
  • Saturday: 11am-1pm

Justice of the Peace service desk hours:

  • Monday to Friday: 12pm-2pm
  • Tuesday and Thursday evening: 5pm-6pm
  • Wednesday evening: 5pm-6.30pm
  • Saturday: 11am-12.30pm

Find a JP: justiceofthepeace.org.nz 

Contacting Wellington City Libraries

Contact our Library team directly via enquiries@wcl.govt.nz or 04 801 4040.