News | 25 October 2023
Share on social

Town Hall project cost increase approved

Mayor Tory Whanau and Wellington City Councillors have today agreed to increase the Town Hall strengthening and development budget by between $70 million and $147 million.

The Council voted to complete the Town Hall earthquake-strengthening and redevelopment project.


Mayor Whanau says while she is disappointed that extra funds are required to complete the project, she is pleased with the outcome given the building’s significance to the Wellington community.


“Previous councils knew that fixing and redeveloping the Town Hall would be a challenging, expensive project given it’s a fragile heritage building standing on reclaimed land – making it one of Aotearoa’s most complicated construction projects.


“Fast-forward to this term and we are now over halfway through the work. Once completed it’ll provide a state-of-the-art music performance and recording venue that will be the pride of Pōneke.”


Councillors were briefed that the option of halting the project and mothballing the building, or demolishing it, would be incredibly difficult due to the Town Hall’s heritage listing, consenting constraints, and the cost of not proceeding.


They were told leaving the building in its existing state would be a breach of the Building Act. Mothballing the project would require a new resource consent because it has a “start to finish” consent. 


Officers advised Councillors that with $182 million already invested, the cost of mothballing the project (if it were possible without consenting and heritage constraints) would result in at least $204 million spent but without a new, earthquake-strengthened Town Hall and centre for music in Wellington.


When the project was commissioned in 2019 the Council of the day was told it would be one of the most complex and risky projects undertaken in recent times in New Zealand. In light of this, the project has relied on strong external, independent advice and assurance throughout.


The redevelopment of the Town Hall aims to turn it into a world-class musical and recording venue with improved rehearsal and performance space, with outstanding acoustics and orchestral recording facilities.


It is intended it be a base for civic and community events and part of a centre of musical excellence for New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and home to Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī.


About the Town Hall


Opened in 1904, the Town Hall was declared quake-prone in 2009. It was closed in 2013 following the Seddon earthquake, with strengthening work starting in 2019.


The quake-strengthening project involves lifting and propping the building to install new base isolators (flexible pads that reduce shaking in an earthquake) and extensive deep piling, while having to protect and restore the fabric of the category 1 heritage-listed building. The building is now on its new foundations, with sheet pilling work completed in the basement. Sheet piling creates a support structure of interlocking steel sheets driven vertically down into the ground to form a wall. These metal sheets fit tightly together, creating a barrier that can withstand the pressure of the surrounding waterlogged ground (the Town Hall basement is below sea level).


Piling and concrete works in the auditorium are still ongoing with piling only 25% complete. This is because ground conditions have been even worse than expected including contamination, geotechnical profile, and the extent of dewatering necessary, impacting on time and cost. The existing building condition has also continued to be worse than expected. Heritage reinstatement has not yet been able to start as a result.