The range of facilities that Council provides and manages on behalf of and in partnership with the community help bring us together, and make Nelson an exceptional place to live. Libraries, halls, sport and leisure facilities, marina, mountain bike trails, and campgrounds fall under this category.

We would particularly love to hear your opinions on the following significant project:

Library Precinct Redevelopment

Creating a vibrant and resilient community space for Nelson

Council is planning to redevelop the Elma Turner Library. This significant project would revitalise and open up the Maitai River Precinct, and provide a modern library space for the whole community to use. Delivering on our vision for Nelson as A Smart Little City, the new library will use innovation and clever design to deliver a climate change-resilient building, and a vibrant, functional place for the community to gather together, learn, and enjoy. It will also be a significant construction project for our City, providing jobs.

A modern library is not a nice-to-have, it is a need-to-have. At their best, libraries offer people the chance to expand their horizons. They are a gateway to opportunity and a great equaliser for our community.

Council plans to build an iconic Nelson library that:

  • Has a Green Star rating of five, and demonstrates a range of sustainable and climate resilient features. For example:
    • Low embodied carbon design
    • Passive heating/ventilation
    • Solar power generation
  • Is adaptable to sea level rise and river flooding for more than 100 years
  • Is resilient to earthquakes
  • Reflects the importance of the location to mana whenua.

For more information on Green Star ratings see:

Why do we need a new library?

Currently Elma Turner Library is located in a converted space, which was previously a car sales office. Parts of the building date back to 1973, with a new extension and internal refurbishment undertaken in 2005 and 2012. It has served us well but is no longer suitable for the amount of use it receives, and the expanding role libraries play in our community. The library currently receives over 300,000 visitors each year.

A new, modern library would better serve the changing needs of our community. The facility would provide more space for us to deliver the full range of activities and programmes that a library should offer. There would be more space available to be booked for individuals and community groups, a greater connection to the natural environment, and a layout that meets modern standards. There are opportunities to develop the Maitai River Precinct with new spaces for people to enjoy.

What you told us

Working with local genealogical organisations and the Nelson City Council Archives, the archive space would be available as an important heritage and research centre. This facility could be incorporated into a larger new library (Options One and Four).

There will be further engagement with the community on the detail of services the library will provide – it is an important place for everyone and we want to make sure we get it right.

Council’s proposal

Options considered for the library redevelopment included refurbishing the existing building, rebuilding on the current site to a lower specification, and moving the library to another part of town. However, these options would not deliver all the outcomes desired by our community.

Our proposal is to build a new, expanded library on the corner of Halifax Street and Trafalgar Street, which includes a plaza connection to the Maitai/ Mahitahi River from the Halifax/Trafalgar Street intersection. (Option One - below).

There are several benefits to delivering the project in this location:

  • The existing library can be kept open and operating until the new library is complete
  • The design connects the community and the City to our awa (river), through the creation of a new entrance to the Maitai walkway
  • A new, attractive, public open space will be created that sits between the library and the Maitai/Mahitahi River
  • The old library site will become part of the integrated development of the adjacent land.

Read the Council report - Elma Turner Library Redevelopment Options – 18 February 2021

We are proposing to partner with Wakatū Incorporation to deliver this project. The mouth of the Mahitahi, along with Matangi Awhio (Auckland Point), was an important site for waka landing, settlement and mahinga kai. Wakatū Incorporation owns most of the land in the Maitai River Precinct, including the proposed location of the new library. Council shares Wakatū Incorporation’s vision for the site: to link the River to the heart of Nelson City,

and for the adjacent land to be a focal point for the community.

We propose to carry out a land swap with Wakatū Incorporation, so that once the new library is complete, it takes ownership of the current library site, and Council takes ownership of the new library in its new location. An indicative plan of the area prepared by Wakatū Incorporation as shown above.

Wakatū Incorporation is exploring the creation of a Climatorium on its land next to the proposed library site.

A Climatorium is a centre where the scientific community can come together with central and local government, industry, academics, and the community, to develop and share innovative solutions to the challenges of climate change.

In 2020 Council signed a Principles of Collaboration agreement with Wakatū Incorporation and

four Danish organisations associated with the Lemvig Climatorium. The agreement identifies three key areas for collaboration: investigating the opportunity to establish a Climatorium in Nelson, sharing knowledge on climate mitigation, adaptation, resilience and innovation as well as incorporating sustainability in education.

A Climatorium would establish Nelson as a centre of climate change solutions, and show leadership in addressing the climate emergency. Council proposes to support this project, by bringing together key organisations to help explore the opportunity and progress the concept.

We propose a provision of $46.3 million ($44.4 million uninflated) for a new library precinct, which includes an appropriate contingency budget. This development would be funded through borrowing, with the cost spread over 65 years – as it will benefit Nelsonians for years to come. Design work is proposed to start in the 2021/22 financial year, with the aim of lodging the necessary consents in 2022/23 and commencing construction in 2023/24. In the current financial year (2020/21), $772,000 of the proposed library budget has been committed to the deconstruction of 23 Halifax Street.

A new library is expected to result in greater usage and an increase in operational costs of $51,000 in 2022/23, increasing to $136,000 per year by 2026/27.

It is expected there will be annual energy savings of at least 30% but potentially as high as 70% compared to a non-Green Star build. The proposed increase in costs does not include any change to opening hours, which would require additional staff.

Any new building in the Riverside Precinct would be built to exceed the current standard in relation to minimum ground levels for 2130, taking into account RCP 8.5 climate scenarios. The new proposed library building will therefore have a floor level approximately 1.2 metres higher than the existing library. Furthermore, the proposed new library building will have the potential to raise the floor level in the future if required, to be almost 2 metres higher than the existing library floor level.

This would extend the flood protection for the building to 2160-2200 assuming the RCP 8.5 climate scenario. The design of Wakatū Incorporation’s new offices within the Riverside Precinct demonstrates a similar method of how this can be achieved.

A refurbishment of the existing building would not have the same level of protection. While floor levels could be raised from their current level, these would not provide the same long-term resiliency as a new build with a higher floor level.

What are our options?

There are several options we could take to redevelop the library. Council has spent time considering them all and has concluded that Option One would deliver the best results for the community. All options include provision for fit-out of the library.

Option One

Construct a new library on the corner of Halifax Street and Trafalgar Street (Council’s preferred option).

This option involves building a new, modern library (3,250m2) within the Maitai River Precinct that would also act as a gateway from the central city to the River. Construction would be to high environmental standards, to deliver a modern, low-carbon, climate resilient library. This option would provide excellent urban design outcomes, with significant landscaping and plaza connection to enhance the library’s links to the River. There would be very little disruption to library services, as the current library building would continue to operate until the new one is completed.

Because this option includes building the library on a new site it requires a land swap with Wakatū Incorporation. Depending on the value of the sites this may include some additional payment or boundary adjustments to land titles to ensure a fair exchange.

Disadvantages of this option include the estimated cost, slightly smaller footprint compared to option four, and some additional time delays to complete the land exchange negotiations.

The estimated cost for this option is $46.3 million. (funded through borrowing, with the cost spread over 65 years).

Impact on rates
$2.1 million p.a (total increase in rates of 2.5%)

Option Two

Refurbish the existing library building

This option would involve replacing the existing roof, and changing and refreshing the internal layout of the library to make better use of the existing space (2,450m2). Refurbishment would extend the life of the library for another 20-30 years. This is the lowest cost option, it does not require a land purchase, retains the riverside location and provides medium-term flexibility on location.

Disadvantages include limited improvements to the physical environment and no contribution to the cohesive Riverside precinct. Refurbishing the existing building would not provide much more additional space to deliver the wider range of services and programmes that the community has asked for. It would also result in significant disruption to library services while the refurbishment work is being carried out and only add a relatively short increase in the building’s life expectancy.

The estimated cost for this option is $21.3 million.

Impact on rates
$1.4 million p.a. (total increase in rates of 1.6%)

Option Three

Construct a new, reduced-specification library on the current site.

This option involves deconstructing the current library building and replacing it with a larger (3,150m2) modern building. This has a lower cost than the proposed Option One, it doesn’t require new land to be purchased, retains the riverside location and provides medium-term flexibility on location.

The disadvantages of this option include: in order to keep the overall budget down some of the sustainability, design, fit-out and external

landscaping features that have been asked for by the community would not be included. This option would have limited environmental benefits and impact the development of a cohesive Riverside precinct. It would also result in significant disruption to library services while the new library was being built.

The estimated cost for this option is $33.6 million.

Impact on rates
$1.7 million p.a. (total increase in rates of 2.1%)

Option Four

Construct a new, high- specification library on the current site.

This option involves deconstructing the current library building and replacing it with a larger (3,400m2) modern building. This option does not require any new land purchase, retains the riverside location and construction would be to high environmental standards, meaning we would end up with a modern, low-carbon, climate resilient library. It is also likely to be the quickest of the new-build options.

While this option would deliver some good urban design outcomes, it would impact development of a cohesive Riverside precinct and wouldn’t provide an integrated entranceway from the Central City to the Maitai River. This option would also result in significant disruption to library services while the new library was being built.

The estimated cost for this option is $45.2 million.

Impact on rates
$2.1 million p.a. (total increase in rates of 2.5%)

Option Five

Construct a new library somewhere else in the City

Building elsewhere in the City would mean losing the connection between the library and the River. We have consistently heard a preference for the Maitai River Precinct as the community’s preferred location for the library,

but have retained this option in case a decision cannot be reached on one of the above options.

This option would significantly delay the start of the project while a suitable site is found. A decision by Council to not build a high quality gateway building on the River could discourage other significant investment in this area. Other disadvantages include, drawing foot traffic away from the river end of Trafalgar Street, the cost of the land purchase and unknown construction risks.

Cost and impact on rates
This option has not been fully costed, as land purchase, design and construction costs would all depend on the exact location.

Other community projects planned over the next 10 years

Council is supporting projects and initiatives that protect our heritage and strengthen the artistic and cultural life of Nelson.

Council is proposing to provide funding ($38,000 over three years) to the Nelson Arts Council in order to help it maintain the new, high visibility central city location of the Refinery Artspace in Hardy Street. Work on the Heritage Strategy, Taonga Tuku Iho, is underway and Council has received valuable feedback on this work through the engagement processes to date.

Council and Tasman District Council are both proposing contributions to the Tasman Bays Heritage Trust’s project to build a new Archive Research and Collections facility for the Nelson Provincial Museum. Council has allocated $3.165 million to this project in 2023/24.

Sea Sports Building

Sea sports at the Nelson Marina include a range of popular activities such as Scouts, Cadets, canoe, surf skis, rowing, waka ama and kayaking. However there is no adequate building to either store equipment or to be a base for activities. The proposed building is expected to cost $8.3 million (in 2024/25 and 2025/26), with design and consenting work commencing in 2022/23. 80% of the project’s construction costs are proposed to be funded from the Marina account, with an expectation that the sports groups who will use the facility will make a 20% contribution. For this option, Council’s initial outlay will be $6.7 million funded through debt, with ongoing interest of approximately $184,000 per year. There will be no impact on rates as the Marina account is a closed account.

The other two upgrade options considered were both to carry out basic improvements on the existing buildings, which would mean less cost but not meet the identified user needs. Users of the facility would be expected to contribute 20% for both these options and neither of the options will have an impact on rates as both will be funded from the Marina Account. Option two would see the existing buildings upgraded and owned by the users, with Council adding on facilities at an approximate cost of $3.2 million. Council’s initial outlay for option two would be $2.6 million debt funded, with interest of approximately $72,000 per year. Option three would have Council owning and carrying out all the work on existing buildings at an approximate cost of $5.6 million. Council’s initial outlay would be $4.5 million debt funded with interest of approximately $122,000 per year.


Council projects that Nelson will run out of burial space in our existing cemeteries within 10 – 20 years. Council is planning now on how to meet our future cemetery needs. There are two options which are being considered - we can develop a regional cemetery with Tasman District Council in the Moutere or Wakefield, or we could find suitable space within the Nelson area, most likely on the northern edges of our city as there is a shortage of suitable space closer in.

Collaborating on a regional cemetery would take advantage of the available land in Tasman and provide up to 80 years of capacity. However, for some residents it would be further than they might expect to travel to reach a cemetery.

We’ve set out why Council believes we need to redevelop the library. Do you support the redevelopment? Why or why not?

Council has an ongoing relationship with Wakatū Incorporation and believes that working together allows us to achieve more for the Riverside Precinct. Do you support us working towards a precinct with Wakatū Incorporation?

Council’s preferred option is a redevelopment on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar streets with a public plaza down to the river. What do you think works about Council’s proposal and what doesn’t? If you prefer a different option please let us know your reasons.

Do you agree with Council’s proposed approach of funding 80% of the construction cost of the Sea Sports building from the Marina account to construct a purpose-built, multi-user facility?

What is your preference? Build a new regional cemetery with Tasman District Council or find space within Nelson?