News | 22 June 2017

Future of ‘Wellington’s best building’ decided

The re-birth of the Wellington Town Hall as the earthquake-strengthened home of a national music centre was unanimously endorsed by Wellington City councillors today.

Town Hall artist impression

The national music centre will be developed in collaboration with Victoria University of Wellington, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and Wellington City Council to establish a world-class centre of musical excellence and centre for culture and the arts.

The Town Hall will also be used for civic ceremonies, Council meetings and will again become home to the Mayor’s Office.

The proposal includes quake-strengthening to 100% of the building code and reflects an improved scope of works including basement storage and access, basement toilets and an extra goods lift.

In May, Victoria University’s Council approved initial funding of $10 million for its contribution to the first stage of the project which will refit the internal space for teaching and performances. The NZSO’s Board signed off its part of the project in April.

A survey of around 800 Wellington region residents, conducted as part of the 2017-18 Annual Plan process, found 73 percent in favour of moving ahead with a $89.9 million plan to earthquake-strengthen the 113-year-old building and the creation of a national music centre.

City Councillors will cast their final formal vote on the future of the project at a Council meeting on 28 June.

Work on the strengthening project will start in August 2018 with a view to completion in 2021.

Mayor Justin Lester described the Town Hall as “Wellington’s best building”.

“This is a world-class venue and is a big part of our cultural identity as a city. Wellingtonians have told us clearly they want to see this city landmark reopened and made even better, so that’s what we’re going to do.

“The new music and performance space will strengthen Wellington’s status as the cultural capital of New Zealand and provide our city with an exciting new attraction.”

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says redeveloping the Town Hall is the first stage in an innovative project that “creates a powerful three-way partnership between the City and two of Wellington’s leading institutions, Victoria University and the NZSO”.

“Victoria is proud to be part of New Zealand’s capital city, and we are fully committed to this project, which will strengthen local communities as well as growing Wellington’s international reputation as a strong civic-minded and creative capital,” says Professor Guilford.

Christopher Blake, NZSO’s Chief Executive, says: “The concept to bring together the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand School of Music is an exciting and bold one that will bring a huge range of opportunities and benefits for musicians, students, and above all make music accessible to more audiences.

“The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is a beloved national institution with an international reputation second to none. The Wellington Town Hall is at the very heart of the NZSO’s history – it is where we gave our first performance in 1947.”