$100K library curtain plan draws criticism

CURTAIN CONCEPT: The final design of Judy Millar’s $100,000 silk curtains has yet to be finalised.
CURTAIN CONCEPT: The final design of Judy Millar’s $100,000 silk curtains has yet to be finalised.

Auckland Council is defending moves to install a $100,000 artistic silk curtain in the new Devonport Library.

Former North Shore City Council mayor and NZ First list MP Andrew Williams has fiercely criticised the curtain, calling it "wasteful" and "extravagant."

But Marion Read, a council service delivery manager, says the curtain commissioned from North Shore artist Judy Millar, is "dynamic" yet "functional".

The council received one quote for a moveable wall, where the 22-metre by 3-metre-high curtain would hang, which would cost $107,000, she says.

Devonport-Takapuna Local Board acting chairman Joseph Bergin says the board agrees with council's logic.

"We could have a blank fold-away wall to divide off the meeting room for after-hours use by the community, or an artistic curtain which would achieve the same outcome for the same cost."

Auckland Council's arts and culture manager Kaye Glamuzina says Millar's curtain was chosen after an open, competitive process involving 90 artists and follows council art policy.

But Williams says the curtain, vulnerable to sun damage and requiring dry cleaning, has an estimated lifespan of 10 years, and will have to be replaced, while a partition would not.

Auckland Library's customer experience manager Mirla Edmundson says there was two years of "extensive public consultation" involving seven public workshops on designing the library.

Williams says spending on the new library has been, "a wasteful, extravagant use of ratepayers money" and exemplifies Devonport politicians fanning the suburb's "sense of entitlement".

Devonport's 16,000 residents don't need a rebuilt library, just a refit, Williams says.

A renovation plan he led under the old North Shore City Council have only cost $4 million, rather than $7.8m, Williams says.

But North Shore Councillor and Devonport resident Chris Darby, says in 2011, a thorough Auckland Council review of the former council's library plans found them "totally inadequate".

The original budget "deliberately omitted critical components", Darby says.

The new library is expected to open by May, 2015.

North Shore Times