Before others, who’ve had little or no involvement in the project, step forward and claim the credit, I thought a potted history would be enlightening for new residents and a reminder to those who’ve lived here a while, of how this wonderful legacy came about.
After several locations, the Waiheke Library was situated in what is now the Citizens Advice Bureau building (formerly the Oneroa Post Office) in Oceanview Rd, Oneroa. However, this library space soon became inadequate to meet the growing population and the current and future needs of the island. While the intention was to build a new library on this Oceanview Rd site, the library was moved ‘temporarily’ up to Artworks. As is so often the case, ‘temporary’ soon became permanent and the library settled into its new home.
Categorised by Auckland City Council as a ‘community library’, the Waiheke facility quickly fell behind requirements. Library management, in particular, felt that the library was not up to standard, for patrons and staff alike and for the expanded activities and resources expected of modern day libraries. More space and better working conditions were needed. The pressure was on to get the funding from Council to buy land for a bigger site and construct a new building.
Throughout most of the process (until a few months before completion of the building) one person has been there for the long haul - Faye Storer. Faye began in 1992, as a member of the Waiheke Community Board. From 1998 to 2007 she was our Hauraki Gulf Islands Councillor on Auckland City Council and, perhaps most significantly of all, she was Chair of the first ever Waiheke Local Board.
Step One –the site
The first hurdle was to secure a large enough site. Faye lobbied successive Auckland City Council Mayors to eventually reach the ultimate goal of a library site big enough to meet the island’s growing needs. First, Mayor John Banks agreed to the purchase of the Artworks site (formerly a timber yard). Then, Faye and the then Waiheke Community Board Chairman Ray Ericson, convinced Mayor Dick Hubbard to buy the neighbouring site of the old Anglican Church, on the hill to the east of the Artworks boundary. Lastly, they persuaded John Banks, then Mayor for a second time, to agree to the multi-million dollar budget to build the library; but without Faye to guide them through the machinations of Council, the last Community Board was forced to agree to a joint Library/Council Service Centre due to budget constraints.
Step Two – a ‘stand-alone’ building
To build a library adequate to meet the needs of a population growing at a rate of 3% p.a. Library staff determined they would need about $5 million for an 800 square metre space, around four times the existing library space. At the same time, funding was also being sought for a new Council Service Centre in Ostend, to replace the current rabbit warren of buildings. Without the guidance of Faye, Auckland City Council decided to fund a project that combined the Library with the Service Centre, together in one location, at a cost of $7 million. This meant a considerable reduction in the size of the Library and no hope of the other community facilities that often operate from library sites.
Combining the two functions was not the preferred option of the last Community Board, the community, the Library staff or the Service Centre staff. However, that was the only option on the table when the first ever Waiheke Local Board came into being in November 2010. Some forward thinking was required, especially since we were now competing with the rest of the region for funding that would only become scarcer as time went by. Fortunately, Faye was back in the saddle and much of our first six months as the new Local Board was spent fighting for the original concept of a ‘stand-alone’ library in Oneroa at the original 800 sqm and opting for a $1 million upgrade of the Service Centre in Ostend, instead of a completely new building.
Step Three – Construction
We then put the new stand-alone Library and stand-alone Service Centre upgrade into our Waiheke Local Board Plan, which finally received sign-off from the Governing Body, but not without an initial stand-off. Faye Storer and Board member Don McKenzie OBE, CNZOM, were appointed as the Board’s Library project spokespersons and helped guide the project through its various stages.
The Board approved the concept designs and architectural plans in February 2012 and work started in October 2012, with an expected completion date of July 2013. The contract was won by Mainzeal which unfortunately went into receivership in February 2013, leaving many civic projects around the country up in the air. After pushing for work to continue as soon as possible before the winter weather set in, Council signed a new contract with Gibson O’Connor to complete the work. Construction started again May 2013 but the hold-up eventually meant a delay of 12 months in finishing the project.
Step Four – Additional features
Thinking wider than the immediate library space, the Local Board was successful in acquiring a further $1 million dollars from the Governing Body to upgrade the Artworks Courtyard to complement the area surrounding the new Library. The contract was awarded to the company building the Library so the two projects could be finished in tandem. We also negotiated with Vector to underground the power lines and with Auckland Transport to replace the aged footpath.
The Local Board wanted the building to make a statement about Waiheke being an island of art as well as literature. We lobbied Council’s public art team for funding and also devoted some of our discretionary money towards making the building itself an artwork. Local, but internationally recognised, artist Kazu Nakagawa was commissioned to develop a façade, which told a story of Waiheke.
A third element was a directional artwork negotiated with tangata whenua, Ngati Paoa. This will be a focus on top of the mound to the rear of the Library. It will take the form of Matariki sight lines.
To quote Don McKenzie:
“This project will set this whole site off on a new direction. It will carry the spiritual values of networking and learning in a modern environment, rebuilding that creativity, learning and personal development which is what libraries are all about.”
So let’s not have any rewriting of history on where the credit lies for our fabulous new Library; credit where credit is due. Take a bow Waiheke – and especially Faye Storer, Ray Ericson and Don McKenzie.