The earthquake prone historic Leys Institute building in Ponsonby will remain closed for several years while Auckland Council determines its future.
The 1906 library and gymnasium closed suddenly just days before Christmas, prompting concern and speculation among heritage advocates.
Council customer and community services director Ian Maxwell today said the closure was made for safety reasons after library staff noticed shaking in the building and an engineering report last November found widening cracks and bowing on a 1939 extension at the rear of the building.
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Earlier reports from 2017 showed the building's seismic assessment only came up to 5 per cent of modern-day building standards.
The Leys Institute was yellow-stickered as an earthquake prone building in 2018, along with the Grey Lynn library, Studio One Toi Tu on Ponsonby Rd and a toilet block in Great North Rd. Council's then chief operating officer Dean Kimpton said none of the buildings would be closed.
"With the movement of the building and the low seismic assessment I took the view that we needed to get our people out," Maxwell said.
Engineering firm GHD, which undertook the November report, recommended a number of remedial works to address movements to the 1939 extension and suggested co-ordinating this work with a wider refit to bring the building up to the required building standard.
Maxwell said it would take three years, possibly longer, to determine what to do and fix the Category A heritage building, saying repairs and an upgrade would likely run into the millions of dollars. Decisions would be made by councillors and the Waitemata Local Board.
Maxwell said he did not think councillors and the community would accept an option to demolish the Leys Institute, which was the first public building and library in Ponsonby funded by William and Thomson Leys. A gymnasium was added in 1906 with money from another local resident, William Mason.
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The library was given to Auckland by the Leys family in 1964.
Maxwell said there are other options to repair and renovate the building, including using some adjacent properties which were part of the gift and selling the building to a developer to upgrade and use for other purposes.
Council chief engineer Sarah Sinclair said Maxwell had personal liability if anything had gone wrong with the Leys Institute, saying he made a good decision for staff and public safety.
"I fully support the decision because there are a lot of different components. There is the seismic, the geotechnical and the uncertainty around how the building will behave. On top of all that, there is all the responsibilities we have as an employer," Sinclair said.
The 12 or so librarians at the Leys Institute have been redeployed to other libraries. A pop-up library is planned in Ponsonby and a mobile library has been parked outside the Leys Institute on some days over January.
Days and times can be found at: www.aucklandlibraries.govt.nz