Did you know that Nelson has had a library service for longer than any other place in New Zealand?

The current Elma Turner Library opened in 1990, and is a fond favourite of many Nelsonians who enjoy its location along the banks of our beautiful Maitai/Mahitahi River.

We need to make sure the library grows with the changing needs of our residents, and so we have been looking at redeveloping this space.


Following the Long Term Plan (LTP) deliberations in May, Council reconfirmed that a new library, on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets, within the Riverside Precinct, is our preferred way forward. However, this decision is subject to several conditions which must be met in full if the project is to proceed. Videos from the deliberations are available below.

These include successfully negotiating a land agreement with Wakatū Incorporation, who own the land, and a completed flood mitigation plan for the proposed building footprint, including consideration of the effects on adjoining sites.

The importance of the library as a key interlinked part of our community fabric will be central to the physical and service design of the new library, and it’s not something councillors or staff are undertaking lightly. A clear scope, a strong management structure, and robust governance oversight are at the forefront of our minds as we work through the project process.

The decision to proceed with the construction of a new library will bring it into the 21st Century, allowing us to broaden the scope of services and opportunities within a larger, purpose-built building and surrounding precinct. While books and reading are still central to what a library is, the new library will move beyond books and traditional library spaces to provide more opportunities for community groups, creative thinkers, tamariki, teens, older adults and visitors to engage with each other and the community around them in a multitude of ways.

At the moment, we are very much at a preliminary stage. The business case presented as part of the LTP deliberations sets out the key functions of a modern library and also demonstrates the limitations of the current library. Among the issues identified are the restrictive size and prohibitive layout of the current library, its flood susceptibility and an existing need for refurbishment and roof renewal. Read about the business case.

Council appreciates that this is a major project and the cost presented to the community is significant. We also acknowledge that questions have been raised about the location. These are addressed below.

Cost

This project is a long term investment in our community. As such, the estimated cost of the new library, $44.4 million uninflated, would be funded by borrowing, and the cost spread over 65 years.

This means we aren’t adding $44.4m to the rates burden in any one year or even over the 10-year term of the LTP. The library project has a small annual impact on proposed rate rises over the next decade.

From the outset, Council has endeavoured to be as transparent as possible about the estimated cost of the new, larger, low carbon, climate-resilient library building. We have included generous contingencies ranging from 20 to 50 per cent in the cost estimates for each element of the project. These estimates will be refined further as we move through the design and procurement stages.

We expect this stage of the process to be subject to intense public interest, and we welcome it. Community engagement and feedback will form an important part of our design decisions. Remember, we are building this library with an expected lifespan of more than 100 years – this building will serve not just the current generation but those still to come, long into the future.

Every step of the process will come back to Council for consideration, discussion and approval. This includes all aspects of the management and finances of the project, and it will be subject to ongoing checks and balances.

It is also important to remember the library redevelopment project is not being proposed at the expense of other important work that needs carrying out for the wellbeing of our community. For instance, Council plans to invest $491 million in infrastructure over the next 10 years, including transport, water supply, wastewater, solid waste, stormwater and flood protection projects.

Part of that infrastructure spend, about $15 million, will be concentrated on improving and upgrading services such as stormwater capacity, replacing ageing infrastructure and improving water supply flows in response to housing and intensification demands in the city centre. In addition, Council has put $12 million into a Housing Reserve to be used to support and work with our partners who can deliver social and affordable housing solutions for our community.

In the planning process for the new library, councillors have asked Council officers to consider potential housing opportunities that could be incorporated. Again, this will come back to the Council table for review.

Climate Change

Sustainability and resiliency are among our top priorities as we move forward with the library redevelopment project. It is important to us that the new library reflects our climate change goals and remains a safe and useable space for the community well into the future.

Modelling work Council has undertaken has given us a good understanding of the potential hazards of the new library site and the potential flooding risk for large parts of the city. We have already committed to designing and building the new library to a high environmental standard, which is expected to result in between 30% - 70% annual energy savings over a conventional build.

The design of the building will incorporate higher floor levels than the existing library, which is assessed to be at risk of flooding in a present-day one-in-100 year flood event. In addition to a significantly higher floor level that would provide protection up to 2130, the new library’s adaptive design would mean the floor could be raised higher still to provide flood resilience up to 2m sea-level rise, predicted beyond 2150.

Over the next three years, Council will be engaging with our community to discuss options for managing the future risk of flooding and coastal inundation affecting lower lying areas of the inner city and Maitai River floodplain. This will lead to the development of a flood mitigation programme to address those issues, including a range of land use planning, climate change adaptation and engineered responses. This could include measures to increase the resilience of access routes within the CBD, including to the library site, in future flood events. Council has allocated a budget of $10.6 million over the next 10 years to begin implementation of that programme. Full implementation is likely to span multiple decades.

Council has been told repeatedly over the years that the connection to the awa/river is particularly important for iwi and our community, generally. If we were to move the library to another location, we would lose the connection to the Maitai/Mahitahi River and the opportunity to work with Wakatū Incorporation to deliver the new library as part of a broader revitalisation of the Mahitahi Riverside precinct.

The time and cost of finding a new, suitable site would add considerable delays and expense to the project and present potential construction risks posed by a less well-known area.

Where we are now

Council officers are preparing detailed reports about all aspects of the project for review before land negotiations with Wakatū Incorporation begin. This is expected to be presented to Council later this year.

It is only when those plans are approved that negotiations will begin. This is going to be a long process, and it is important we take the time to set comprehensive oversight and project plans. Construction of the new library is not expected to begin until 2023/24.

Prior to any design work taking place, we will be undertaking extensive community engagement to ensure everyone has a chance to convey what they want Nelson’s new library to be.

We understand that you may have some reservations about the project, but we do hope that you can see the benefit to Nelson and its people of having a facility of this type in this location, and will join with us on our journey to deliver a library that truly meets the needs of Nelson’s community, now and in the future.


LTP Deliberation Discussions

If you would like to watch the Long Term Plan Deliberation discussions about the library redevelopment, please see the following links:

19 May 2021 discussions

20 May 2021 discussions

Concept image of new library

A concept image of what a new riverside Library could look like.