Wellington Town Hall Strengthening Given Green Light

13 June 2013

The Wellington City Council voted unanimously today to invest in the strengthening of the Town Hall, budgeted at $43 million.

"It is important the Council is clear about the full cost of such an important project. My colleagues and I agreed that the project must go ahead," said Mayor Celia Wade-Brown.

"The Town Hall is a historic landmark building. The money we will spend will future-proof the building for the next century. Music performance and recordings will benefit hugely.

"Today we showed leadership for Wellington's heritage and public safety. We have excellent economic opportunities to lead earthquake engineering, community resilience and architectural services globally.

"This is a critical commitment to a strong future for Wellington. We cannot expect private owners to upgrade and strengthen their heritage buildings if we don't show this commitment."

Today’s meeting also gave the go-ahead for a range of other associated work to go ahead on the Civic Square ‘campus’. The Office of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor will be relocated to the adjacent Municipal Office Building, sharing the fourth floor with the office of the Council’s Chief Executive, Kevin Lavery, at minimal cost.

Councillor Iona Pannett, the Council’s Built Environment Portfolio Leader, says the increase in the projected cost of the Town Hall – budgeted at about $34 million when planning for the building’s strengthening started two years ago – is largely the result of detailed investigation into ground conditions and resultant foundation

Cr Pannett says the proposed strengthening option – base-isolation – would take the Town Hall to 140% of the New Build Standard.

"It is actually a cheaper and less destructive and disruptive solution than other strengthening options – like steel framing – and it would keep the building largely intact in a sizeable quake when other solutions would mean that while the occupants would probably escape unscathed, the building would probably be badly damaged to the point it might have to be demolished.

"The Wellington Town Hall is part of our sense of place, we’re not prepared to let such an important piece of our heritage be reduced to rubble," said Cr Pannett.

The City Council’s Earthquake Resilience Manager, Neville Brown, says base-isolation has been used to give extra quake resistance to a number of well-known Wellington buildings including Parliament, Te Papa, the Old Bank Arcade in Lambton Quay and the main block at Wellington Hospital.

Base-isolation, invented by Bill Robinson in Wellington, uses lead and rubber ‘bearings’ in a building’s foundations. The base-isolators are flexible and allow a building to move laterally in a quake.

Work on the upgrade of the Town Hall is expected to start at the end of this year.