South Dunedin temporary library plan axed

The Dunedin City Council says it remains committed to a multimillion-dollar South Dunedin library development, despite shelving plans for a temporary library intended as a stop-gap measure.

The move to scrap the temporary library came at yesterday's 2014-15 annual plan deliberations, after council staff confirmed they were considering redeveloping the former Wolfenden and Russell heritage building in South Dunedin for the project.

Councillors had in January signalled their desire for a small, temporary ''shop front'' library in South Dunedin, until a permanent community complex - including a library - could be built.

However, a report by council arts and culture group manager Bernie Hawke to yesterday's meeting prompted councillors to think again.

It showed the shop-front library would cost nearly $220,000 to establish, and $360,000 to run each year, despite being the smallest library in the city at just 100sq m, he said.

And, despite offering only limited facilities, it would require the old building to be upgraded to meet building code requirements, the cost of which would be recouped by the owner through the terms of any lease, Mr Hawke said.

That meant it would possibly be more cost-effective to redevelop the entire building as a larger, permanent library, as had been suggested by the owner, Mr Hawke said.

However, council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose told yesterday's meeting that needed more investigation, including detailed analysis of the merits of owning and redeveloping an existing building or leasing one.

That prompted councillors to vote in favour of scrapping plans for the temporary facility, while reiterating their support for the planned permanent facility after years of debate and delay.

Construction of the ''community complex'' including a library - and making use of an existing heritage building - was already pencilled in to the council's long-term budget, beginning in 2017-18.

Councillors asked staff to continue to refine options for that and report back to next year's long-term budget meeting.

The council had also already pencilled in $8 million to pay for the facility, but some councillors yesterday expressed hope costs could yet be reduced and work accelerated.

Mr Hawke, responding to a question from Cr Richard Thomson, said rough figures suggested the cost of redeveloping an existing building could cut the required budget by more than half.

There was already interest from potential partners - such as Otago Polytechnic - wanting to share use of the building, but it was too soon to discuss cost-sharing arrangements with them, he said.

Cr Thomson said it made sense to invest in an existing building, retaining the area's existing streetscape and reducing costs.

Deputy mayor Chris Staynes said he was ''very disappointed'' the temporary library idea was not viable, but it clearly was not.

However, the council remained committed to the community complex project, and reducing costs could allow the project's timing to be brought forward next year.

''I guess it's a little bit of good and bad,'' he said.

Cr Lee Vandervis said the temporary library only ever amounted to ''putting a toe in the water'' to test demand for a permanent library, when that was already known.

He hoped councillors would see the permanent complex as a priority and ''I hate to say it - borrow some serious money to get it done''.

Mayor Dave Cull was also disappointed a temporary library could not work, but hoped the eventual reuse of a heritage building would encourage the redevelopment of others in the area.

 

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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