‘Longer than an elephant to gestate’ – plans for Waihī Beach library get go ahead

It’s taken more than a decade of talk, yet Waihī Beach is set to welcome a new library.

The facility will be connected to the community centre through a covered walkway and the centre’s façade would be upgraded to visually link the buildings.

Western Bay of Plenty District councillors voted on the site at the Performance and Monitoring Committee this month.

The Beach Rd site was chosen over the other shortlisted option of Te Mata Reserve on Wilson Rd.

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This was supported by council staff, the architects and had majority support from the community.

Of the 575 pieces of feedback received through community engagement, 211 were in favour of utilising the current community centre site.

There were 107 in favour of using the land behind the community centre and 74 wanting to see the library on Wilson Rd.

Architect Gareth Donald, who worked on the design concepts, said the Wilson Rd site was constrained and the floor area would be limited.

“We feel it is a compromise for all of the parties involved,” said Donald, of Jigsaw Architects.

It was also the most expensive option coming in at $8.6 million.

Mayor Garry Webber said the Waihī Beach library was 'a real step up' from initial talks 12 years ago.


Mayor Garry Webber said the WaihÄ« Beach library was ‘a real step up’ from initial talks 12 years ago.

The Beach Rd site would be $6.8 million for the new build and community centre upgrade.

Mayor Garry Webber said it was great the library would be built after being talked about for 12 years.

“This has taken longer than an elephant to gestate and it’s great that we finally got there,” he said.

Webber was concerned people would object to the cost because the original figure talked about was $2.5 million.

“That was a placeholder from a long way back and it bears no resemblance to what this is,” he said.

“This is a real step up to what we were talking about 12 years ago.”

Waihī Beach Community Board chairperson Ross Goudie said the board was “very enthusiastic” about the site and always had been.

“We are very willing to work further with whoever, however, to make this the best little library in the Western Bay,” he said.

Councillor Anne Henry said it was “fabulous” the site had been chosen because it was right next to the Waihī Beach School and initially it wasn’t considered as an option.

The former teacher at Waihī Beach School said often schools’ libraries were re-purposed as classrooms as a short-term solution to cope with roll growth.

“It’s really vital that our community libraries do play a part in schools and education,” said Henry.

The library structure would incorporate three concave curves, with the front one able to be seen from the Beach Rd roundabout.

Donald said part of the brief was to have the new building as a focal point from the road roundabout.

“The concave curve, architecturally, is a welcoming gesture, it encompasses people,” he said. “It’s a welcoming gesture to bring people into town and say, this is a marker building, this is our community hub, please come in.”

In a statement after the meeting, deputy chief executive Gary Allis said the site checked several boxes for the community and allowed council to run a shared operating model.

“Modern libraries offer the community so much more than a service for borrowing books,” he said.

“They’ve become a centre for the entire community to meet, to connect, to learn, to get inspired and to share knowledge and experience.

“And this site, positioned between the school and community centre, is a golden opportunity to create a modern building that puts our tamariki on track for a lifetime of learning.

“The current library only has room for one public computer and it’s just not big enough to meet the community’s needs.”

The library would now proceed to detailed design and the timing would be considered through the 2023-24 annual plan.

It’s expected construction would be brought forward from the original long term plan proposal of 2028.

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