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Wellington Central Library closed from tonight over quake concerns

Wellington’s central library is being closed indefinitely after a new engineering report raised concern about its safety in a significant earthquake.

One of Sir Ian Athfield’s most recognised designs is the Wellington Library. Photo: RNZ / K Hanger

The library – which was opened in 1991 – and public car park will be closed from 8.30pm tonight.

Mayor Justin Lester said it was necessary to do so to keep the 3000 people who visit it each day safe.

However he said every effort will be made to ensure that library services will be back in action, as he knew they were crucial to the city and closing the library would be disruptive.

“For me, the library is the living room of our city and I understand how disappointed Wellingtonians will be to have a cherished and much-loved venue close. It pains me too.

“We will do our very best to operate temporary facilities and to make the investments we need to make the Central Library building safe for Wellingtonians.”

Council chief executive Kevin Lavery said safety is its number one priority.

He said the engineering assessment was received yesterday and the council has acted quickly to close the library based on that advice.

“It was already in our plans to do seismic strengthening work on the Central Library building, so it would have needed to close to carry out these works at some stage. The engineer’s report has made it necessary for me to decide to make this closure happen more quickly.

“As a precaution we are also closing some areas of the footpath around the library as these areas are within the building foot-print. This includes some access routes to the Civic Precinct; alternative routes will be put in place.”

Mr Lavery said no job losses were expected as a result of the closure and the Council was looking at how to deliver alternative library services, including making use of the library branch network, digital services and other offerings in the city.

He did have some good news for library users.

“For ease, all items currently on loan from Central Library will be renewed and fees suspended for returning items to other branches.

“The library is a popular building in the city, and this closure will affect many people in different ways. Council’s community services team will be working with social agencies to make sure some of the city’s more vulnerable users are supported.”

The library closure comes at the same time as the cost of another major Wellington City Council project, the earthquake upgrade of the capital’s Town Hall, has ballooned from $43m to $112m.

RNZ