About the Town Hall strengthening project

Work is underway on a major upgrade of Wellington Town Hall.

View from Civic Square of Wellington Town Hall, as it looks in 2013.

Wellington Town Hall from Civic Square


Work underway

Work is underway on a major upgrade of Wellington Town Hall. The building was closed to the public in 2013 because of its earthquake prone rating and is scheduled to re-open in 2021 as a joint venue for Wellington City Council, Victoria University's New Zealand School of Music and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

In June 2017 the Council approved nearly $90 million to upgrade and earthquake strengthen the Town Hall to 100 percent of the New Building Standard. The work will include re-piling and ‘base isolation’ (the building will rest on flexible pads that lessen shaking during an earthquake).

The plan of work

We expect the Town Hall strengthening and upgrading work to take about three years.

Work starts in May 2018 to secure the unreinforced masonry (bricks). This is because of government legislation following the Kaikoura earthquake. The rest of the work will start late in 2018.

The work starting in May 2018 means: 

  • Wooden hoardings will go up around the building for public safety and the walkway between the Town Hall and the Michael Fowler Centre will be closed.
  • The lift in Civic Square will not be working, as it will be inside the hoardings. There is an alternative accessible route to the City to Sea Bridge from Harris Street.
  • Wakefield Street will remain open. There will be the temporary loss of some short term car parks. Traffic management will be reviewed late in 2018.
  • The i-SITE (111 Wakefield Street) will remain open.
  • The Michael Fowler Centre (MFC) will remain open. However, the MFC carpark will be closed from late May for the Royal New Zealand Ballet rehearsal space to be built.
  • Safety barriers will be placed along the Town Hall's Wakefield Street and Civic Square sides.

The main Town Hall strengthening and upgrade work will start later in 2018, once the brickwork is secure. It will have these extra features:

  • The tiered Ilott Theatre will become a flat floor space suitable for standalone performances and a support space for the main auditorium.
  • The West Hall (between the Town Hall and the Municipal Office Building) will be rebuilt to provide access from Wakefield Street to Civic Square and a link to the adjacent building.
  • The main auditorium will have a new, stronger floor.
  • A new basement under the main auditorium will provide public toilets and usable space.
  • Servicing storage and public facilities will be improved, including better loading facilities in the main auditorium with a second stage lift.
  • The Town Hall pipe organ has been restored and will be reinstalled.

Why we are doing this work


The Town Hall was deemed ‘earthquake prone’ in 2009 (it complied with less than 33 percent of the New Building Standard). The building was closed to the public after the Seddon earthquake in 2013.

The Town Hall site is reclaimed land and is prone to liquefaction in an earthquake. The building sits on ageing, unreinforced concrete piles making the structure unreliable in an earthquake. The upgrade project will resolve both these factors, making the Town Hall a stronger and safer civic and event space for everyone to enjoy.


The Town Hall opened in 1904 and is one of the city’s most important heritage buildings. It is a listed heritage building in the District Plan and has a Heritage New Zealand Category One rating, meaning it has high cultural and heritage value for the city.

Musical excellence

The upgraded Town Hall will be part of a national centre for musical excellence.

The Council is collaborating with Victoria’s New Zealand School of Music and the Zealand Symphony Orchestra to make Civic Square a location for musical performance, education, culture and the arts in Wellington.

The music hub would include the adjacent Municipal Office Building and the Michael Fowler Centre. The university and the orchestra are fundraising to make the idea a reality.

Find out more at the fundraising website

Using scanning technology to determine accuracy and options

View the animation of the Town Hall created by Holmes Consulting:
Wellington Town Hall - Preserving History with New Technologies - Holmes Consulting Group

This demonstrates one of the best tools to get accurate building measurements. Once the building is scanned, the data is imported into 3D drafting software to determine strengthening options. The architects can then use the actual dimensions in their drawings to create 3D models.

Time frame 

Issue Registration of Interest documents for Town Hall upgrade and strengthening  February 2018
Appoint main contractor Late 2018
Start construction Late 2018

Alternative venues for use

For information about alternative venues while the Town Hall is upgraded, call the Wellington City Council Contact Centre on 04 499 4444.

More information

Bede Crestani
Project Manager, Build Wellington

04 495 7823 or 021 270 8154