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FAQs: A new library for Nelson: Nelson City Council

What extra value will the new library bring? Find out in our FAQs.

What extra value will the new library bring?

Great cities have great libraries; they are the cultural heart of a place, and much of what makes life in a city exciting comes from within their doors.

A new library will be a place of opportunity for Nelson.

The books are of course important – Nelson’s collection is the most borrowed per capita in New Zealand – but a modern library offers much more; access to technology, community spaces for gathering or performance, archiving and genealogy, a café for socialising, and educational programmes for children.

Our libraries are the great equaliser, everyone is welcome to access these services. Libraries play an especially important role for those members of the community without a loud voice; the disenfranchised, lower socio-economic groups and other vulnerable members of our community.

Libraries are a centre for education, providing vital support to schools and Early Childhood Education Centres, and a place for people to improve their literacy, knowledge of culture and civic society, access media and gather information.

They also promote equal access to technology, helping a range of people, especially older adults, feel confident and safe using technology to carry out many everyday tasks online; filling out the census, applying for their passport or accessing online banking.

Our staff do a brilliant job of providing all this in the current space, but the building is too small for our population and we regularly turn down requests for events and meetings.

The new proposed library at the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets would have a much larger floor space, spread across two levels. This would allow us to cater for many more visitors, as well as increase the number and variety of resources, experiences and programmes our library can provide.

The proposed new library is the cornerstone of our work with Wakatū Inc. to revitalise the Riverside Precinct. When completed, our preferred option will deliver a landmark building synonymous with Nelson.

Constructed to a Five Star, Green Star sustainability standard using low carbon construction techniques, the new library aims to be a model of sustainable and resilient development that will serve our community for at least another 100 years.

How did you arrive at the cost?

Following a community engagement process in 2019, Council came up with a list of things the community and councillors wanted to see in the new library.

These priorities included a range of spaces, a connected archive, a sustainable building, and a project that made the most of the riverside location.

To determine the cost of such a complex proposal, Council sourced indicative costs from library projects in New Zealand, engineering consultants and liaised with Wakatū Inc. on the prospect of a land swap for the new library site.

Before detailed design is undertaken and especially with  large projects, such as this one, we cannot be absolutely certain of the final cost, which is why we build appropriate contingencies (ranging from between 20 to 50%) into individual elements that determine the estimated cost.

This then forms the basis of our budgets for the Long Term Plan (LTP).

If our preferred option is adopted, we will be able to provide more certainty around the project’s cost as we work through design phases and procurement.

We have sought to provide a conservative rough cost estimate from the outset, using all the information we have at this point in time and have included costings for specifics such as legal and relocation costs that are often not included in project cost estimates.

Large scale capital projects are funded by 40-year term loans.

This means we aren’t adding $44.6m dollars to the rates burden in any one year or even over the 10-year term of the LTP. This means the library project has a small annual impact on proposed rate rises over the next decade.

There are four other options for you to consider: refurbishing the existing library, building a new library on the current site, building a lower spec library on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar, or building a new library in a different part of the City.

These options do cost less but we believe they offer less benefit to Nelson, and in the case of refurbishment will only extend the life of the current library by another 20-30 years.

It is estimated that the operational cost of moving the library temporarily, which is not required if we build on a new site, will cost about $1m a year over two years. That equates to 1% extra in rates over both years.

The benefits linked to our preferred option of building a new library on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Street could be substantial, and will transform the proposed site into an area that offers our community places to learn, rest, play, eat and drink. Related soft and hard landscaping will carve a pathway that vastly improves access from the city centre to the Mahitahi/Maitai River.

Visitors to Nelson will be greeted by a stunning, architectural building that reflects Nelson’s social and cultural values.

Why is the proposal to build the library to a five star Green Star rating?

Engagement in 2019 and 2020 showed a strong desire from the community for a sustainable building, demonstrating Nelson’s approach to climate change. Therefore, our proposal is for a library built to a Green Star rating of five that demonstrates a range of sustainable and climate-resilient features.

While construction costs are higher (approx. 3% increase), we expect cost savings to be realised over this building’s life through lower operating costs brought about by features of the building such as passive heating and solar power generation. Annual energy savings are expected to be at least 30 per cent but could be as high as 70 per cent compared to a non-Green Star build.

What about the risk of the river flooding and sea level rise?

The proposed new library’s proximity to the river means we need to manage how it will be affected by flooding and climate change. Robust analysis has confirmed this site remains appropriate.

This project, including raising ground levels at the Riverside Precinct, will be considered within the context of an adaptive strategy for the low lying levels of the city centre.

It is not a given that we will need to retreat from an elevated platform, except for in some of the more extreme climate change scenarios that have been projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, under which the site would potentially be exposed to flood risk during the second half of next century.

Floor levels of the new library are being designed to be above future flood levels in the year 2130 and provide adaptability for further raising of the floor level to allow for 2m of sea level rise.

I don’t use the library, why should I pay for it?

Making the library appealing to more people is one of our aims. What would bring you into the library? We would love that feedback in the form of a Long Term Plan submission.

Libraries benefit whole communities. They help create a more equal society, something we all benefit from directly or indirectly.

Our home delivery and outreach services are a good example.

These services are used by many older and housebound adults in Nelson. Not only do they provide access to a wide range of resources, but also provide connection to a person who might otherwise be isolated so that they can continue to feel part of our community.

Many Council facilities are paid for by everyone, despite not being used by everyone.

For instance, ratepayer money is spent maintaining our public pools, and while not everyone can swim they are an essential part of our City being a good place to live.

Even something as simple as the wide-ranging, and occasionally mind-boggling array of events and classes posted on our noticeboard can make a real difference.

How else might you find out about Nelson’s thriving roller derby scene, or end up taking art classes at the Suter?

Great cities have great libraries, they are the cultural heart of a place, and much of what makes life in a city exciting comes from within their doors.



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