Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Wellington Town Hall project cost blows out to $182m

The projected budget for earthquake strengthening of Wellington’s Town Hall – one of the most complex construction projects being undertaken in Aotearoa – has increased from $145.3 million to $182.4 million, the city’s Council has revealed.

The Town Hall was declared quake-prone in 2009 and was closed in 2013 following the Seddon earthquake, with strengthening work starting in 2019.

The quake-strengthening project involves lifting and propping the building to install new base isolators (flexible pads that reduce shaking in an earthquake) and extensive deep piling, while protecting and restoring the fabric of the category 1 heritage-listed building.

Wellington City Council Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow says at the time the current budget of $145.3 million was approved in 2019, Council was fully aware of the project risks that she says could not be fully and accurately costed at the time.

The risks included unknown ground conditions – the building is on reclaimed land – and the full extent of the building’s condition.

Under the contract with construction company Naylor Love, the Council has retained a number of these significant construction risks for the project which are now being realised.

Ms McKerrow says this “complex web of risks” have all eventuated and been significantly amplified by the impact of the Covid pandemic. Most notably: 

  • Cost escalation due to supply chain pressure
  • Inflationary pressure 
  • Scarcity of construction resource
  • Continued disruption since March 2020 including four lockdowns and the restrictive working environments required for the various Covid levels. 
Interior shot of the Wellington Town Hall, showing scaffolding.

This has meant the project has experienced significant delays and higher cost, she said. The original construction completion date of May 2023 has now been revised to September 2024.

The additional $37.1 million funding requested will not be required until the 2023-24 and 2024-25 financial years, Ms McKerrow said.

When the Town Hall re-opens it will be a world-class musical and recording venue with improved rehearsal and performance space, with outstanding acoustics and orchestral recording facilities, she said.

It will be a base for civic and community events and part of a centre of musical excellence for New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and home to Victoria University of Wellington’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī.

Temporary propping on the first floor of the Town Hall.

“The Town Hall is an iconic building which has been at the heart of the city for almost 120 years.

“You can only really understand the complexity of the undertaking when you see the sheer scale of the operation.

“We are effectively deconstructing and reconstructing a 120-year-old masonry building on reclaimed land,” said Ms McKerrow.

Interior shot of the Wellington Town Hall, showing scaffolding.

“The council embarked on the project in 2019 – before Covid disrupted global supply chains and increased material and labour costs for the construction industry.

“Wellington City Council has not been the only organisation to experience increased costs and delays. We remain committed to restoring the Town Hall to its previous glories and rightful place at the heart of the city’s musical and cultural scene,” she said.

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