Wellington City Council is spending more than $3.6 million on rent for every year it's unable to return to its offices in Civic Square.

The council has no plans in place to return to the precinct while live negotiations continue over the earthquake-damaged Civic Administration Building (CAB).

The wrangle between the council and the insurer has so far lasted almost four years.

Council staff started the move to their current premises on 113 The Terrace at the end of 2018.


They were turfed out of CAB following the 2016 Kaikoura Earthquake and moved to the nearby Municipal Office Building (MOB) and others around the city.

But noisy earthquake remediation work on the neighbouring Town Hall meant they had to move out of MOB too.

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Some staff were working on the top floors of Wellington's Central Library, which came to an end when that building was also closed due to seismic concerns.

A Local Government Official Information and Meeting Act request revealed the annual cost to the council for renting the office space on The Terrace is $3,660,000 excluding GST.

That figure includes the rent of 100 car parks and various storage areas.

The official information response also said any decision to move back to Civic Square, and the associated organisation plans required to do so, would have to wait until the negotiations with insurers have been finalised.

A copy of any plans for council staff to move back to the square was therefore refused, because the documents do not exist.

Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow told the Herald it was too early to make any commitments around going back to Civic Square given the number of well-known outstanding issues.

She said council had no option but to lease premises after the administration buildings in Civic Square were closed.

Wellington City Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Wellington City Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow. Photo / Mark Mitchell

113 The Terrace was leased on highly competitive terms, McKerrow said.

She noted that, before the shift to The Terrace, a significant number of council staff were already housed in temporary accommodation around the CBD. Those leases have subsequently been terminated.

"The council is currently negotiating with insurers in respect of costs related to the closure of the Civic Administration Building – once settled, this will significantly offset the cost of leasing space at 113 The Terrace", McKerrow said.

Exactly what is going on behind the scenes between the council and the insurer remains a secret.

The council has refused to release any information regarding the negotiations over CAB to maintain legal professional privilege.

Wellington City Council is leasing premises on The Terrace. Photo / Google
Wellington City Council is leasing premises on The Terrace. Photo / Google

But last month the Herald revealed new cracks were discovered in the floors, meaning additional propping had to be installed to ensure the safety of those working inside the building.


More extensive investigations continue to be carried out to assess the extent of the damage and appropriate repair options.

Civic Square portfolio leader councillor Iona Pannett acknowledged the precinct "isn't at its best at the moment", while the council addressed several seismic issues.

She said, in her personal view, it was important council returned to the square, but has concerns about the resilience of the area in respect to earthquakes and climate change.

"Given it's called Civic Square it's nonsensical to not have the council there."

Pannett said in the long term there was a good argument for moving the square altogether, but council should get as much out of it as it could for the next 100 years.

She said the cost of rent was an incentive to get back to Civic Square as quickly as possible.


Mayor Andy Foster said there were some big decisions to be made around Civic Square and he was keen to start engaging with the community sooner rather than later.

He said one of the questions that needed consideration would be to what degree council returned to the square.

Foster also pointed to the idea of introducing other uses for the space, which could bring in money to help pay for mounting costs.