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Source: Auckland Council

Auckland Council has begun the development of a detailed business case for the restoration, modernisation and seismic remediation of the Leys Institute buildings following go-ahead given by  Waitematā Local Board late 2020.

The 114-year-old council-owned buildings closed in December 2019 following a seismic assessment that indicated structural issues meant they could be unsafe in the event of an earthquake.

The buildings housed a library and gymnasium and were gifted to Auckland Council by the Leys family in 1964.

The board’s decision was based on a report which indicated that restoration was the preferred option to meet the ongoing and future needs of local people.

The council’s analysis of Ponsonby and west Waitematā shows a growing demand for library services in the area and for improved facility flexibility to deliver modern library services for changing customer needs.

The local board also emphasised the importance of preserving the heritage value of the Leys Institute, as a scheduled Category A heritage building, noting that the Leys Institute Trust Deed requires library services to be delivered from the buildings.

Waitematā Local Board Chair Richard Northey says the case for restoring the buildings is compelling.

“The Leys buildings are much-loved and used by locals and visitors alike. They are an important part of the identity of our community, and we cannot lose them.

“This, combined with a shortfall in library services and a growing population in this area, means now’s the time to start the process of restoration, so the board is very pleased that progress is now underway.”

Auckland Council Community Facilities General Manager Taryn Crewe says that while last year’s COVID-19 response delayed the start of the detailed business case, the subsequent 10-year Recovery Budget allocated funding for earthquake strengthening of community facilities meaning that progress of the Leys buildings can now get underway.

“The detailed business case will analyse the strategic, economic, management, commercial and financial cases and we expect it to be completed by mid-2022.

“Throughout the process we’ll be carrying out on-going engagement and communication with mana whenua, community, stakeholders and the local board,” she said.

Friends of Leys Institute co-ordinator Helen Geary said she was thrilled to get the news of the progress from the local board.

“Friends of Leys Institute, the community group with over 220 members that has been advocating for the seismic strengthening of the Leys Library and Gymnasium and the return of community services, is heartened to see that after nearly two years, the council has committed to the restoration. Waitematā Local Board is to be commended for its sustained support and efforts on behalf of the Leys buildings. We look forward to seeing the works progress as soon as practically possible.”

The indicative costs for the strengthening and restoration are between $15 and 22 million. The detailed business case will help determine more accurate costs for the work.

Next steps

A project steering group made up community representatives and key stakeholders is being set up to provide quality advice to the project team.

A timeframe for the start of restoration work will be dependent upon the findings and recommendations from the detailed business case.