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Library Precinct Redevelopment – a hub, a highlight, and a haven: Nelson City Council

A place to learn, to explore, to dream, to converse, to relax and to be inspired – libraries are not just places for books; they are touchstones for communities.

Nelson City Council’s vision for the Whakatū Nelson library is an investment in our city’s future, supporting the lifelong learning of our community with a new building on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets.

We know Nelsonians support the library. The Elma Turner Library currently receives more than 300,000 visitors each year, and its collection is the most borrowed per capita in New Zealand. Library membership is about 20% higher than the national average.

The present Elma Turner Library is located in a converted space, previously a car sales showroom and yard. Parts of the building date back to 1973, with extensions and internal refurbishments undertaken in 2005 and 2012. It has served us well, but it is no longer suitable for the amount of use it receives and the expanding role libraries play in our community.

The library we are proposing is bigger, with more space to deliver activities and programmes, for community groups and individuals to book spaces for meetings and events, to home a new shared archive and for our book collection to grow.

Working alongside our partners Wakatū Incorporation, the proposed new library would form the gateway to a new Riverside Precinct. The surrounding area could be brought to life with a playground, market square, food outlets, local retailers and a climatorium.

The Maitai/Mahitahi River is a significant natural and cultural element of our city, and using innovation and clever design, the new library will ensure we make the most of this connection, as well as creating a low carbon, climate-resilient building that will last for another century or more.

We propose a provision of $46.3 million ($44.4 million uninflated) for a new library precinct, which includes a 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.

The 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.
If the proposed new library goes ahead, design work will start in the 2021/22 financial year, with the aim of lodging the necessary consents in 2022/23 and commencing construction in 2023/24. However, these timeframes are indicative and will form part of the consenting process.

Other options considered for the library redevelopment include refurbishing the existing building, rebuilding on the current site to a lower specification, and moving the library to another part of town – you can read more about those options on page 2. Council has spent time considering them all and has concluded that option one – a new, high-specification library on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets, would deliver the best results for the community.

Elma Turner Library – more than books

In the 2020 calendar year, despite the COVID-19 lockdown and alert level restrictions, Elma Turner Library:

  • Issued more than 392,000 items.
  • Entertained and educated 2,300 children at events like Storytimes, school holiday programmes, afterschool clubs and school visits.
  • Printed 58,159 pages from the public access computers, made 16,000 photocopies and scanned 25,000 pages.
  • Issued Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney 90 times, making it the most popular children’s book of the year.
  • Donated more than 400 baby blankets, teddy bears and clothes, knitted by the library knitters group based at Elma Turner Library to Nelson organisations in need.
  • Recovered about 65 items of lost property each month – everything from passports to teddy bears to USB sticks. Most are claimed.
  • Put 26,000 items on hold.

Nelson City Council is currently taking submissions on the 2021-31 Long Term Plan. To read the Consultation Document and make a submission visit Shape Nelson.


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