‘A sanctuary for the mind’: Elma Turner Library redevelopment set for next chapter

22/02/2021 1:42am

Listen to poetry, email a long-lost friend, dig deep into Nelson’s history, gather for community connection, or simply sit in the sunshine beside the Mahitahi/Maitai River – a brand new library for Nelson will offer much more than just the chance to check out a book.

That vision is now a step closer after the Council voted to include a proposal for a site that will connect the City Centre to the Mahitahi/Maitai River in the 2021-31 Long-Term Plan.

This option will involve the construction of a new library on the corner of Halifax and Trafalgar Streets. 

Landscaping of the area will open up the Riverside Precinct, allowing people to flow through the library space to the Mahitahi/Maitai River, creating potential new spaces for recreation, food, and retail.

Council proposes to invest $44.4 million in a high-spec building, designed to be both sustainable and resilient to climate change. 

A significant investment for Nelson’s future, the new library will offer the community enhanced spaces for meetings, small scale performances, greater technological resources, archive facilities, activity rooms and spaces to create.

Group Manager Community Services Andrew White says the new library will support the concept of lifelong learning with an increased number of community activities, library services and programmes.

“Libraries are a place of sanctuary for the mind and closely linked to the well-being of our community. The new library will be a place for people to stop and think, read, be creative and communal. Opportunities like these,
make a city a worthwhile place to live.”

Mayor Rachel Reese says the aim is to provide Nelson with a facility that rivals the best libraries in New Zealand, connects our river to our city, and provides a focal point for our community.

“At their best, modern libraries offer people the chance to expand their horizons. They are a gateway to opportunity and a great equaliser for our community.

“The new library’s proximity to the river means we need to manage how it will be affected by climate change, and robust analysis confirms that this site remains appropriate.”

Constructed to a Five Star, Green Star sustainability standard using low carbon construction techniques, the new library will demonstrate ways in which we can sustainably develop areas of Nelson that will be impacted by climate change.

Other options considered by the Council included rebuilding the library on its current site (either with a reduced or high specification), refurbishing the existing building, or rebuilding a new library in another part of the city.

Elma Turner Library has been in its current site, a former car showroom, since 1990, and plans to redevelop the library into a modern, fit-for-purpose community building date back more than a decade.

The Nelson community has consistently expressed support for a new library at the Riverside Precinct through previous Long-Term Plans and Annual Plans.

Further engagement with iwi, community groups, library staff, Councillors and the general public was carried out between May and December 2019, by Athfield Architects and Irving Smith Architects and via an online survey. This revealed that people felt the following components were important:

  • The Collection
  • A range of spaces to cater for all
  • Great access and car parking
  • A welcoming place to host and engage visitors
  • A café
  • A well serviced community room open after hours
  • A connected Nelson archive, centred around a library heritage space
  • A sustainable building demonstrative of Nelson’s approach to climate change
  • A community building that is connected to its landscape and surrounds
  • A project that maximises the opportunity of the river.

The Council also heard that although refurbishing the existing library would cost less, this would only extend the life of the building by another 20 – 30 years with few additional benefits. 

A new building on a new site would be designed to serve as Nelson’s main library for the next 100 years, and have the added benefit of opening up the Riverside Precinct for comprehensive, integrated redevelopment.

Council officers will now begin preliminary negotiations with Wakatū Inc, the current owners of the Halifax/Trafalgar Street site. 

A final decision will be made once we have received feedback through the 2021-31 Long Term Plan.