3 Feb 2017

Music hub for Wellington Town Hall?

7:53 pm on 3 February 2017

The Wellington City Council has released details on its Town Hall strengthening project, as the work goes out to tender.

Wellington Town Hall.

The council is working on a deal to establish a music hub at the Town Hall, but negotiations are still under way. Photo: RNZ

The heritage-listed building, which is more than 100-years old, was closed for earthquake strengthening in 2012.

The council is working on a deal with Victoria University and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) to establish a Music Hub at the venue, but those negotiations are still under way.

Wellington mayor Justin Lester

Justin Lester wants to make the Town Hall "a performance venue for the future." Photo: RNZ / Aaron Smale

The most recent estimates pegged the work at $60 million, but the city's mayor Justin Lester said that figure could rise.

"It's likely to be more expensive than that, we don't yet know and that's why we're going out to tender on the consultancy [and] also the construction programme," he said.

Victoria University and the NZSO would be responsible for paying for their part of the fitout, which could include recording studios and reconfigured rooms so they were better performance spaces.

In a joint statement, the three organisations said they were "continuing their negotiations and planning for a proposed music centre based around the Wellington Town Hall".

"Those discussions are expected to be completed in the coming months, during which time management teams for each organisation should have sufficient clarity regarding the required financial commitments to seek conditional or final approval from their respective governance bodies to proceed," they said.

Mr Lester said he expected a report to go to council in April, for the detailed design work to be completed in December, and for the 33 month long construction to begin early 2018.

"We want to make sure it's a performance venue for the future," he said.

"In the last few years before it was closed it was used largely as a convention space, [now] it's all about performance.

"We want to make sure we utilise the acoustic qualities of the Town Hall and we're going to enliven it as well having a whole host of students and the NZSO playing there on a daily basis."

The old council debating chamber was earmarked to be reconfigured for performances, but the mayoral offices would be retained.

"The Town Hall's our seat of democracy for Wellington City Council, so I think it's important we've got a place we can go and we can have our public meetings and the public can attend," Mr Lester said.

"It's also important that we've got the mayor's office in the Town Hall.

"We receive scores of international and national delegations to Wellington, and we need to be able to host them in a place that reflects the city's heritage and culture."

The strengthening work would also include installing base-isolating technology, which has also been retrofitted at Parliament, to minimise shaking in future earthquakes.

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