Nelson City Council is delighted to welcome our community back into Elma Turner Library as it reopens in full after 19 months of disruption during strengthening work and repairs.
The library was closed for nine days while staff prepared the space for reopening on Wednesday 17 January, which included moving 70,000 books and 1,500 shelves. The last section of the library to reopen is the space adjacent to Halifax Street.
Nelson Mayor Nick Smith congratulated Council’s project management team and contractors on the successful completion of the strengthening work and thanked library staff and users for their tolerance during the disruption. He also thanked Councillors Kahu Paki Paki, Tim Skinner and Aaron Stallard for their support on the Elma Turner Library Reopening Taskforce, which has overseen the project.
“This reopening is a significant milestone in that we are back in business with a fully functioning library service at Elma Turner. This work has been particularly important for me because it was the first significant project initiated by Council after I became Mayor.
“There were critics, some of whom questioned whether the library could be successfully strengthened and others who thought the building posed little risk.”
Refurbishment projects involving earthquake strengthening of older buildings are high risk and unpredictable, Mayor Nick says
“The discovery last April of cracked and under-strength trusses was a nasty surprise but it confirmed the need for strengthening work. I am proud of the final outcome, with the project being completed under budget and a month ahead of schedule.
“It is good economics to have extended the life of the current library by another 5-10 years for $2.5 million. This defers the need to spend $46 million on a new building at a difficult time financially of high interest rates and Council facing nearly $60 million in costs from the August 2022 storm. Council now has time to reset the process on finding the right long-term solution for Nelson’s central city library.”
The library was blessed by Council kaumātua Matua Luke on Wednesday morning before the doors were opened to the public, who were welcomed with a variety of events, including a full-day sci-fi and fantasy fiesta, the chance to win prizes, and an opportunity to put their wits to the test in a comic book-themed escape room.
Elma Turner Library was closed in June 2022 after it was discovered heavy ceiling tiles throughout the building posed an earthquake risk and the ceiling grid itself was in some parts of the building under 34% NBS (New Building Standard), meaning the building was earthquake prone. The library began reopening in stages, starting from July 2022, but as work on the ceiling tiles progressed, further damage was found to some of the ceiling trusses in mid-2023, delaying the library’s full reopening.
The total cost of the Elma Turner Library earthquake strengthening project and additional truss and roof repairs is $2.5 million. The library now meets 67% NBS (New Building Standard) for the ceilings, and 34% NBS for the structure, which is expected to give the building a further five to 10 years of life while longer-term solutions that meet the needs of the community are considered.