Nelson City Council will proceed with its preferred option for a new, high-specification library on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets, acknowledging the support of submitters to Nelson City Council’s Long-Term Plan for a visionary, bold and innovative approach to the Elma Turner Library Redevelopment Project.

In a Council meeting on Thursday 20 May, the resolutions relating to the new library included bolstering governance oversight of the project, as well as delivery of a flood mitigation plan for the proposed building footprint, including consideration of effects on adjoining sites.

Councillors emphasised the strong support in submissions for community engagement in the development of the library precinct concept.

Mayor Rachel Reese reserved the right to speak to allow Nelson City Council’s Library Manager Sarina Barron to acknowledge the importance of the project.

“What I can do is assure you it will be a well-used, well-loved community facility. Our current library is just that.

“Today at the library we had nine different groups, covering everything from online safety courses to robotics for kids. This is us – this is our library at our limit. 

"And on paper, and in action, this is fantastic, and my team sees the impact of this on individual lives. However, we know that the community needs more and wants more. We say no often, we are constantly juggling needs and requests week in and week out.” 

Ms Barron’s vision of a new library that could provide more for the Nelson community was echoed in submissions. Many encouraged Council to create a community hub where ideas and learning could be fostered and encouraged.

Mayor Rachel Reese said the decision to proceed with the new library was consistent with Council’s vision for Nelson and urged councillors to stay the course.

“This is about the wellbeing of the community, so if at any point in this process this gets challenging, and it will do, then remember you are doing this for the right reasons. We are now at the start of the journey, and although there will no doubt be twists and turns on the way, I am confident that we will end up with a new community facility that is worthy investment in our Smart Little City.”

The main concerns of those who made submissions against Council’s preferred option were cost, flood risk, climate change adaptation and whether a new library was really needed.

Staff spent Wednesday and Thursday responding to councillors questions around these risks.

Activity Engineer Flood Protection Toby Kay told the chamber that the envisaged library design would mean the library was serviceable for the next 100 years, even if no flood mitigation work was undertaken. 

“We are looking at a flood risk in 2130. This means we need to wind the clock back to 1910 and consider what our level of development has been, what our technological innovation has been over that same period. So, these risks will increase incrementally over the years, and we will have time to respond.

"Our current budget for flood protection in the next ten years is $52m, and if we roll that out over the 100-year time period that would be $520m. We do have funding to mitigate the risks.”

Environment Chair Kate Fulton acknowledged the work undertaken by consultants and staff in preparing the report.

“We have staff who have spent hundreds of hours looking at how you mitigate and build for the future.”

Deputy Mayor Judene Edgar said the new library was a fundamental part of Nelson’s infrastructure.

“People often say a library is a nice to have, that it is not core infrastructure. I will just refer you to the Local Government Act. It is acknowledged as critical to our communities. We need to be cognizant of that as well, because those decisions were not made lightly by governments.”

After the Long Term Plan is formally adopted in June, the next step for the project is to begin formal land negotiations with Wakatū Incorporation.