Seismic upgrades to our landmark facilities

We need to strengthen some of our city's favourite facilities. Time is ticking for us to complete this work. Palmy is considered a high seismic risk area.  

The 8 buildings we're proposing to upgrade over the next decade

Council owns 26 buildings that need seismic strengthening

We have 26 buildings that have been considered earthquake prone because they are below 34% of the new building standard.

Buildings or other structures can be considered earthquake prone due to their age, size, shape or construction materials. For some of our properties the fix is relatively simple, but for others it’s far more significant.

We have until 2039 to get all our buildings or structures up to at least the 34% standard. However, the clock is already ticking on a few of our buildings such as The Regent Theatre, Central Library and Te Manawa, which all need to be addressed before 2033.

While the buildings are considered earthquake prone, they are not considered dangerous so are still ok to be used over the coming years.

Twenty-six is a lot of buildings to get through, and the cost will be high – both for the seismic upgrades but also if we need to move some of these operations (like the library or museum) during construction.

Seismic upgrades can be done in different ways – strengthening, rebuilding, retrofitting or partial or full demolition of the building.

For the 26 buildings in total, we used a set of criteria to decide the order in which to complete the seismic upgrades.

Those criteria include:

  • Business continuity (would we need to close all or part of the building)
  • How critical the facility is, especially for a civil defence response
  • Priority buildings under the legislation (this only includes the Regent Theatre)
  • Occupancy (how many people work and visit the building)
  • The importance of the building under legislation
  • Heritage value, iwi value and how it aligns with our other strategies

We also considered potential costs and other work that needs to be done in the building, which could be done as part of the seismic work or after it (for example, a new roof is needed).

We’re proposing to only do 8 buildings over the next decade, and the rest would be considered and completed in the following 5 years. We’re estimating the costs for the next decade to be $170M (8 buildings), and then about $32M for the rest. By doing the 8 most critical buildings first we can ensure there are enough specialist contractors available and those most used and needed by the community are completed.

Those 8 critical buildings costs and timings are:

  • Regent Theatre – $13M, construction in years 2 and 3
  • Central Library – $65M, seeking 90% external funding, construction in years 4 and 5
  • Te Manawa Museum of Art, Science and Heritage – $67M, seeking 90% external funding, construction in years 6 and 7
  • Civic Administration Building (Council’s city centre office complex) – $17M construction in years 8 and 9
  • Caccia Birch House – $6M, seeking 80% external funding, construction in Year 10
  • Crematorium – underway now
  • Wastewater Treatment Plant – underway now
  • Water Treatment Plant – underway now. 

This report to Council from June 2023 details all 26 Council-owned buildings and structures and provides more information about how we determined the priority for strengthening them.

Seismic Prioritisation Report(PDF, 3MB)

The costs for seismic upgrades are highly indicative – we need to decide what type of strengthening is needed for each of the buildings or structures and then work on the detailed design. In Year 1, we will be working on design and other lead-in work for the Library, Regent and Te Manawa.

For some of these projects in our city centre, we have also assumed the need for more planning work and to seek some form of co-funding.

Every project will see us work with stakeholders, undertake a procurement exercise for the best price, and have our elected members consider the project multiple times before going ahead.

We know these are very big costs and they’re top of mind for us. The cost of seismic upgrades can often be the same cost as demolishing and rebuilding a facility.

We expect the costs for Te Manawa and the library will be similar for seismic, or rebuilds that maintain heritage features. This level of detail will be worked through over the coming years. It’s essential we spread these costs out for our ratepayers. These first 8 facilities are essential services for our community so we have assumed they will all be replaced/upgraded in some shape or form. In the future we will ask you about what you’d like to see for the remaining structures and facilities. 

Our city centre landmarks have an opportunity to shine brighter

With the Central Library, Te Manawa, and Council’s offices all needing seismic upgrades, there is an opportunity for us to seek co-funding, and make these facilities even better than they are now!

The seismic upgrades detailed above will cost significant sums – but some also have the opportunity to transform our city centre. If you’ve been to Christchurch recently, you’ll have seen the impact of this with its new Library and Conference Centre. Tauranga, Invercargill, Hamilton, and many other cities are doing the same with these facilities – with diggers already on site.

Over the past few years we've been looking at what this could look like in Palmy, too. We've previously referred to this work as the 'civic and cultural precinct'.

Rather than just seismic strengthening, how do we draw more people and businesses into our city centre through these iconic cultural institutions? How do we get more people living in our city centre? How could the work on these facilities tell our history, support local businesses, better connect our residents and make our city centre more vibrant?

We’ve set up a steering group made up of elected members and representatives from business, iwi, tourism, and Te Manawa to plot the path forward for us. We’ve heard from some of these other cities too. They’ve explained their process and how they’ve attracted co-funding to ensure ratepayers aren’t the only ones footing the bill.

Tauranga for example has its ratepayers only paying half the cost of the works, with the rest coming from a mix of other funds.

Co-funding can work in various ways. It could be that we lease a building, we could have public private partnerships, or we could receive external grants from government or other funding bodies.

We haven’t done the groundwork yet to know what is possible in our city – but based on work in other cities we know these are valid options to consider. Both for better outcomes for our community, and financial reasons.

Our preferred option is to spend the next 3 years building on our existing planning and getting expert advice about the programme of work and funding, then consulting you again before proceeding

In the coming 3 years, we would be getting seismic design work started for the Regent Theatre and the Central Library. Construction will need to start on The Regent in that time too.

We are proposing to spend $100,000 in Year 1, $102,000 in Year 2 and $104,000 in Year 3 on investigating partnerships and funding opportunities and scoping out the potential for these facilities. There are additional costs involved in the design and construction of these projects.

As we've explained above, the costs for seismic upgrades and a rebuild of a facility are expected to be similar due to the nature of these facilities and their locations. This detail will be worked on over the coming year.

We've assumed 90% co-funding for the construction of these projects. That means for the estimated $132M for the library and Te Manawa, we would fund $14M. If we cannot seek external funding, we will need to look at alternative options, scope, and other Council projects to ensure we can do the legally required changes.

We will use our 2019 Civic and Cultural Precinct Masterplan as a starting point for this work.

Read the masterplan(PDF, 12MB)

Read the options