At least two Wellington City councillors have reconsidered their controversial vote supporting a proposal to privatise part of the central library building.
Councillor Nicola Young has now confirmed a change of heart after the Herald this morning revealed Green Councillor Laurie Foon also wanted to backtrack.
Young said she didn't have much time to consider the last-minute proposal and it was clear Wellingtonians were not happy about the thought of privatising part of the library building.
"I am committed to the urgent restoration of Civic Square, but I'm also elected as a representative. So I no longer support the partial sale of the building, nor the reduction of the library's book collection.
"We will have to find cuts elsewhere as huge rates increases are scaring Wellingtonians."
It comes as some councillors are desperately seeking advice from council officers about how to take privatisation back off the table, ahead of another Long Term Plan meeting this week.
Officers themselves have warned in meeting papers there is now no opportunity to develop alternative budgets, but amendments can be accommodated - as long as they don't create new cost pressures.
Concerns have been raised by local Green Party members over the way some councillors, who ran on the party's ticket, voted at the council's chaotic Long Term Plan meeting last month.
It's understood the party issued a "please explain" as to why deputy mayor Sarah Free voted against tripling the cycleway budget and why both she and Foon voted in favour of a proposal to sell part of the library building as office space.
Mayor Andy Foster made the proposal as part of 11 last-minute cost-saving amendments to the council's 10-year budget.
He won the library vote 9-6, with significant importance placed on keeping the council's proposed debt ceiling increase to a 225 per cent debt-to-income ratio.
Following the meeting, in a regular newsletter distributed to Green Party members in the Wellington Region, the party said it was aware of concerns raised about the votes and that the situation was "getting the attention it deserves".
Foon told the Herald she has since reconsidered her stance on the library.
"I am reconsidering my vote on the library as the public voice has been strong - the public wants our library to stay in community ownership," she said.
Asked whether the way she voted reflected her party's values and policy, Foon
acknowledged the Greens supported community assets remaining in community ownership.
"My yes vote was to understand what other finance options are available to help keep us below our debt level and get our library open as soon as possible.
"We have no shortage of infrastructure challenges and we need to understand what options we have in funding tools. We need to not delay but progress the work that needs to be done."
How councillors voted on privatising part of the library building:
FOR: Andy Foster, Diane Calvert, Jenny Condie, Laurie Foon, Sarah Free, Sean Rush, Malcolm Sparrow, Simon Woolf, Nicola Young
AGAINST: Jill Day, Fleur Fitzsimons, Rebecca Matthews, Teri O'Neill, Iona Pannett, Tamatha Paul.
When the Herald revealed how unhappy Green members were over the vote, local government and finance spokeswoman Julie Anne Genter noted the party opposed fiscal austerity.
Foon has since indicated she could change her position on the library in future votes.
"We are working with the council and officers to bring another option to this issue to take to the public for consultation.
"If we can land another solution that meets keeping the library in community ownership, finding a way to pay for that, and making it happen so we can start as soon as possible - I will certainly be supporting it."
Foon would not elaborate on who "we" is, details of the alternative plan, or whether it would be presented by the end of the week.
The Herald asked Free the same questions around whether she would reconsider her vote on the central library, but she declined to comment.
This Thursday, councillors are being asked to agree on a proposed draft Long Term Plan consultation document for the community to have their say on.
Council officers have issued a warning in the Long Term Plan meeting documents.
"There is now no opportunity to develop alternative budgets given statutory deadlines and requirements."
But they said amendments to the recommended budget could be included in the draft consultation document, as long as they did not create new pressures on the budget.
"To avoid this, any amendments to add budget items should be agreed alongside off-setting savings."
Libraries portfolio leader councillor Fleur Fitzsimons told the Herald she has also asked council officers for advice about possible amendments to the library decision.
"My preference is that the council does not consult on selling any part of the library building as it will become a distraction from important issues contained in the draft Long Term Plan, such as fixing the pipes, building affordable housing, and developing the rest of Te Ngākau Civic Square."
Civic Square has become a graveyard of vacated earthquake-prone buildings.
Wellington City Council is currently spending $3.6 million in rent for every year its buildings sit empty in the square.
In December, councillors agreed the return of the main Wellington City Council premises to the square would be a part of its redevelopment.
Fitzsimons said that decision appeared to have been overlooked when advice about selling the library was provided to councillors at the last minute.
She said any extra space in the library could be "sensibly used" by council staff.