$69m plan to extend National Library

Last updated 23:56 26/05/2008
REVAMP: An artist's drawing of the re-designed National Library, which is to get a $69m upgrade.
REVAMP: An artist's drawing of the re-designed National Library, which is to get a $69m upgrade.
REVAMP: An artist's drawing of the re-designed National Library, which is to get a $69m upgrade.
GOVERNMENT SPENDUP: The National Library is to get a $70m upgrade; Government House is receiving a $47m facelift; the new Supreme Court building is costing $40m, and the restoration of the old High Court costs $25m.

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The Government has announced a $69 million plan to redevelop the National Library, just days after a $47 million facelift for Government House was revealed.

Prime Minister Helen Clark today unveiled plans to extend and upgrade the six-storey building, just 20 years after it was opened to the public.

Miss Clark said the project would be completed in late 2011, expanding the building opposite Parliament and making heritage collections more accessible to the public.

An additional 4000 square metres of storage and exhibition space would be created.

Without the redevelopment, the library would run out of space within six years.

Miss Clark said the National Library held collections estimated to be worth a billion dollars.

The library was opened in 1987, and at the time there were warnings that it was too small.

"This development is a major milestone in the history of the National Library,'' Miss Clark said.

"A 21st century library for the digital age will be created."

Government building projects are providing a bonanza for the Wellington construction industry. The library redevelopment in Molesworth St, Thorndon, rivals the new Supreme Court building in cost, with that project including $25 million to restore the old High Court and $40 million for the new court.

Fletcher Construction, one of the biggest operators in Wellington, says it is a good time for the Government to negotiate some sharp deals.

Communications executive Peter Cowey said Fletchers was "reasonably fortunate" to have a lot of work on - but others were feeling the pinch.

"The industry in some ways is not in great shape because there are a number of layoffs being made by other contractors ... For the Government to be looking at new buildings means it's probably quite a good time for them because subcontractors and suppliers are going to be giving pretty sharp and keen prices."

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He was aware of big companies laying off staff and said there had been a notable decline in the number of building projects.

"[But] we've got quite a bit of infrastructure and government work going forward."

The Registered Master Builders Federation chief executive, Pieter Burghout, said the Wellington construction market had slowed down since a couple of big projects had ended.

"There's only a handful of projects as opposed to tens or twenties of projects. So smaller builders are chasing work upstream, larger builders are chasing work downstream and it is a bit of a competitive market out there."

Wellington was better placed, however, than many other centres.

But the library redevelopment could prove to be a political hot potato. The library has been earmarked for redevelopment since 2006, but just $18 million was set aside for the project at the time.

The redevelopment was labelled necessary because the library was expected to run out of room within six years.

Budget documents issued last week said the project would provide "a transformed 21st century National Library".

The costs include better protection for heritage collections and provision of more storage space and an "environmentally sustainable building".

The library was opened in 1987 after decades of wrangling and delays. There were warnings as the first sod was turned that it would run out of space before the turn of the last century.

- with NZPA

- © Fairfax NZ News

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