Rotorua Sportsdrome's conference room is now home to a team of council staff, as a multi-million dollar upgrade to the Civic Centre continues.

Renewal of the Haupapa St Civic Centre was approved in the 2015-25 Long-term Plan with $3.9m allocated in total and the project expected to take up to six years.

Now 30 years old, the building was in need of renewal, including building infrastructure such as air conditioning and services like data wiring which were now obsolete, said council chief financial officer Thomas Colle.

He said the work would incorporate establishing a fit-for-purpose emergency operations centre, as required in all cities following major earthquakes in New Zealand in recent years.

"The Civic Centre project is being completed in three stages and we are still in the first stage. The work started late last year with roof repairs, a re-fit of public toilets in the customer centre and re-tiling of part of the ground floor [public area], moving to a refit of staff toilets early this year.

"Work on a portion of ground floor office space is now starting and council's infrastructure team have moved to what was previously the conference room area at the Sportsdrome.

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"They will be located there for about a year before moving back into the Civic Centre and the Sportsdrome space will then be occupied by other staff to enable the next stage of the renewal to proceed."

He said the conference room at the Sportsdrome was "hardly used" as it was also in need of renewal and it would be available for community use again when no longer needed for council staff.

The main part of the Sportsdrome was still available for and being used by the community, he said.

In June 2015 when councillors voted to go ahead with the project, chief executive Geoff Williams took them on a "virtual tour" of the Civic Centre as he described some of the worst instances of damage and lapsed maintenance.

These included a locked ground-floor cupboard that contained dangerous levels of sulphur monoxide - just feet away from a council employee's desk.

Mr Williams also gave the less hazardous examples of ageing chairs in the cafeteria and worn carpets as proof of the need for major refurbishment.

Some councillors were initially reluctant to commit to an annual spend of $650,000 for six years on upgrades.

But most dissenting voices were silenced by a slideshow of images providing visual proof of some of the more worrying maintenance issues.

In the end it was an almost unanimous vote to approve the spending, with only Rob Kent voting against.