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Te Aka

Te Aka is the name of the project that is developing a new library and civic area for Ahuriri/Napier.

Te Aka is a flagship NCC project that will result in a new library, governance and community space for Ahuriri/Napier. It contributes to our vision of enabling spaces and places where everybody wants to be. The new building and outdoor space will be in the block bound by Hastings, Station and Dalton Streets. We have set aside $58 million for the whole development with a goal to start construction in 2025. 

The project includes the new library, Council's new customer service centre, and Councillors' governance space for public meetings. This meeting space will be bookable by the general public and community groups when not in use by Council. Other spaces within the library will also be available for community groups to use.

Libraries are important community gathering places. Developing a fit-for-purpose library for Napier will give residents of all ages and backgrounds a safe and welcoming place to learn, share, work and meet together, supporting lifelong learning, literacy and reading. We want it to be a safe and inclusive community gathering place for all ages, abilities and cultures.

The project presents a rare opportunity to design a space that is a collective expression of Napier's residents and our aspirations as citizens. It will celebrate our cultural values and unique history.  Once complete, we anticipate that the area will be a special place for ceremonial events and celebrations that acknowledge Napier’s history and its diverse cultures.

Our desire is that the redevelopment of this area will create energy in what is now a quiet part of the city. It will help to stimulate economic activity and encourage growth in new businesses and business confidence in this area.

Read the Napier Library Business Case here.

Library quote

View the proposed concept design images of the library, governance facility and surrounding outdoor space.

From the outset of this project, Napier City Council has worked in partnership with mana whenua to co-design the new library and its surroundings. Both mana whenua and NCC wish to promote and enhance the environmental, economic, social, spiritual, historical and cultural values of Ahuriri/Napier for present and future generations. Te Aka is a significant and appropriate project to enable this partnership, and for these values to be tangibly reflected.

A cultural narrative has been developed in partnership with mana whenua. This narrative describes what is unique about our place and people, and the stories important to the whenua (land). The cultural narrative has been woven through the library's concept design and highlights opportunities for mahi toi (creative and artistic workmanship).

He hononga tapu a Te Aka i waenga i a Papatūānuku me Ranginui. 

Koia ko te hononga i te takiwā hiranga o runga ki te takiwā ōkiko o raro.

He mea whakaatu te pae o runga i te moemoeā, te whakaāio wairua, me te mātauranga, ā, hei tā te pae o raro ko te pūahoaho, te kōrerorero, me te auahatanga.

He wāhi e kitea ana ngā tūnekenekehanga a Ahuriri, i hīia rā e Rūaumoko te whenua i te moana. Ka puta ko te ngahere o Tangaroa, ka whakaarihia he waka huia hei pupuru, hei whakahaumaru hoki i ngā taonga i te pae tiketike rawa.

He wāhi tākaro hoki a Te Aka mā te hinengaro, te tinana, te wairua me te whānau. He whakarite hoki i te whiri i ngā aho rau o te mātauranga i waihangahia mai ai i te wairua o te mahi ngātahi.

Nā ēnei whakaaro me ēnei ariā katoa ka hua mai ai a Te Aka, ā, ka kitea i tana whakahoahoatanga mai.

Te Aka is the sacred connection between Papatūānuku and Ranginui.

It is the link between the space of excellence above and the space of physical manifestation below.

The upper level represents dreaming, meditation, and knowledge and the lower level represents clarity, conversation, and creativity.

Ahuriri (Napier) is a site of movement, where Rūaumoko uplifted whenua from the ocean. The forest of Tangaroa appeared and presented a waka huia where taonga are stored and protected at the highest level.

Te Aka is also a playground for the hinengaro (mind), tinana (body), wairua (spirit), and whānau (family). It is a metaphor for
weaving together the multiple threads of knowledge that is built on the spirit of collaboration.

Te Aka is based on these concepts and elements and this will be reflected in its design.

The New Zealand Green Building Council (NZGBC) administers a sustainability rating system known as Green Star ratings for every commercial building type including schools, hospitals, office buildings, shopping centres, and industrial warehouses.

Napier City Council is ensuring its new library and governance facilities will be a certified Green Star 5 construction. This represents excellence for a New Zealand construction project and will demonstrate that the building meets best practice sustainable design and build benchmarks. These benchmarks are assessed independently by the NZGBC. This project is currently registered with the NZGBC for future Green Star certification. 


Sustainable features

What is a civic area? 

A civic area houses a city’s elected leaders and administration. It can also include other community facilities such as libraries, museums, community meeting rooms, support service organisations and outdoor public gathering spaces. It often includes government agencies such as Police or the District Court, for example. 

Where is Napier’s civic area and why is it being redeveloped? 

Up until 2017, Napier’s civic area was the city block bound by Station Street, Dalton Street and Hastings Street. It included Council’s administration and governance functions in two buildings, along with an adjoining building that housed the libraryIt was also very close to Napier District Court. 

When Council and the library moved out of their buildings due to earthquake risks in 2017the area became largely deserted. We want to create new economic activity and energy at this end of town.   

Te Aka was the project initiated to create fit for purpose buildings for our library, civic and governance activities. We are taking a financially responsible approach to this project by proposing a staged approach to the development. We are prioritising our public-facing facilities first, with the library, community spaces, customer services and governance facilities forming stage one of the development. Council administrative offices are being considered as a second priority. 

Opportunities like this don’t come up often. We now have a chance to design a special place for ceremonial events and celebrations that acknowledge Napier’s history and its diverse cultures.  

What is the Library and Civic Area Plan? 

The Library and Civic Area Plan was developed in 2021 and is not a detailed design. It is a plan that lays out desired ideas for the library and civic area the block bound by Hastings, Dalton and Station Streets and the surrounding area. For example, what type of spaces, buildings and activities do we want the area to include? How will we use the area? Which organisations should be housed there? The plan is like pieces of a puzzle that fit together to best meet the needs of the different groups in our community. The building and landscape concept design was then developed based on the Library and Civic Area Plan.

The Library and Civic Area Plan was developed by a consortium comprising Boffa Miskell, Athfield Architects and local designer Jacob Scott in conjunction with council officersEarly engagement with key stakeholders also fed into the development of the plan. These included mana whenua, arts and culture representatives, groups representing the elderly and youth, as well as property developers, planners, architects and real estate agents. 

Why not strengthen the buildings to meet earthquake standards? 

The Civic Building has been demolished. The Library Tower will be re-strengthened, but who does this has yet to be decided. We need to consider a range of factors when designing the new area. These include community activities and events that the current site is not designed to host. We want the area to become a focal point for the city that can be used for many purposes, not just buildings to house Council and the library. 

Will the library go back to its old building? 

No. Please refer to the Library and Civic Area Plan to see where it will be located and the concept design images.

When was the civic building demolished? 

Demolition was undertaken by Ceres New Zealand and was completed in March 2023. This contractor fulfilled Council’s criteria of working in an environmentally sound and cost-effective way. Ceres used demolition techniques that maximised our ability to recycle old building materials such as timber and concrete. The demolition was carried out by the safe removal of asbestos, which then allowed the interior strip-out of the building. Large demolition excavators then worked from the south of the building to the north, demolishing the building from the top down.  

This method ensures that the new building will achieve a Green Star 5 rating from the New Zealand Green Building Council. A 5-star rating represents New Zealand excellence in a healthy and sustainable building. For our new library building to achieve a Green Star 5 rating, it must take into account the demolition of what previously stood there. The Civic building was demolished in a way that ensures value for money for ratepayers, with the added benefits of being environmentally responsible. 

What has happened to the time capsule and mural?

The time capsule is currently in storage. The artwork on the wall facing east has been removed and stored for future use - exact plans are yet to be determined.

Who is designing the new building?

Athfield Architects is designing the building in partnership with a local mana whenua design lead. The project (Te Aka) is being managed by The Building Intelligence Group.

When will construction begin? 

We first need to complete the detailed design of the new building. We have set aside $58 million for the whole development with a goal to start construction in 2025. 

What about car parking?

Parking will be available on the streets surrounding the site, as it currently is.

Will the bus stop be a part of the area? 

We are looking to improve public transport facilities and will ensure that the library and civic area provides easy access to all modes of transport and be pedestrian and cycle friendly. We particularly want to encourage access and links to sustainable transport options. 

Will Civic Court be included in the planning? 

Civic Court on Station Street is on the edge of the library and civic area and will be considered as a key part of the plan. Wwill consider how we can positively influence the design and operation of the surrounding areas to mutually benefit both the library and civic area and the businesses and activities that take place nearby. 

Will residential areas be included? 

Inner city living will not form part of the library and civic area but may be considered in neighbouring areas 

Why construct near the sea when there are concerns about sea level rises? 

The library and civic area is around ten metres above sea level. The current 100-year flood level along Napier’s coast is 5.7 metres above sea level. Research suggests that sea levels will rise 0.6 metres in the next 50 years, bringing a 100-year flood event level to 6.3 metres, well below ten metres.  

What about any future changes to how local government is organised? 

Any proposals about local government reform that might come into being are being considered during the detailed design phase. We know the future of local government is uncertain and that is why we are planning to focus on council administrative offices at a later stage of this project. We will develop flexible, adaptable, future-proofed buildings and spaces. 

What were the seismic issues with the former civic and library buildings?  

The former civic and library buildings were two of the first in the country to have been assessed using a new technique introduced nationwide at the end of 2016. Seismic reports in 2017 are very different to those undertaken in 2010, prior to the Christchurch earthquake. The rules and requirements have changed since then. We undertook the seismic assessment based on the latest standards. When a building is assessed, an assessor assigns a rating to various points of a building. Under the Building Act, assessors are required to take the lowest rating and assign this to the entire building. This means that while the Civic Building was rated at 10%, and the Library Tower at 15%, not every part of either building carries this level of risk. The risk is calculated against the chance of a 1 in 1000-year earthquake happening – this is an extremely powerful earthquake.   

Does Council have the option to divest the land the old Council building and library sits on? 

In 2017, Council adopted a decision to have the option to divest, either by long term lease or sale, the site on which the Civic building was located, to a private developer for commercial development. 

Project background

View the Library and Civic Area Plan here.

Design of the Library and Civic Area Plan was undertaken in 2021 by a consortium comprising Boffa Miskell, Athfield Architects and local architect Jacob Scott, in collaboration with council officers.

The plan gave conceptual ideas on what the area occupied by the former library and council buildings could look like in future. For example, what type of spaces, buildings and activities could be there? Who should be included in it? The plan is like puzzle pieces that show how they fit together to best meet the needs of the different groups in our community.

We spoke with a range of groups to gather their thoughts on what should be in the Library and Civic Area Plan. These groups included culture and arts representatives, mana whenua, groups representing the elderly and youth, as well as property developers, planners, architects and real estate agents.

Developing the plan was a rare opportunity to design a space that is a collective expression of us and our aspirations as citizens of Ahuriri/Napier. It celebrates our cultural values and unique history.

The Library and Civic Area Plan laid the groundwork for the development of the concept design of Napier's new library and governance facilities. The new library will be a part of the area - please view the plan on the link above for details. 

he Civic Precinct Framework was developed in 2020. It set the overarching principles and values to guide decision-making, and established our commitments to the community and the environment. (Internet Explorer does not support the viewing of this document).


Since 2017, we have been investigating various options for office accommodation, governance facilities, and a new central library. In December 2017 Council approved a Statement of Proposal which would have allowed the sale of the Civic site (on the corner of Station and Hastings Streets) for a commercial use. Negotiations with an international hotel provider for the purchase of this site closed following a change in circumstances due to Covid-19 in 2020.

A site selection process for the new Library also concluded, with Council resolving in 2019 to establish new library facilities in the city block bound by Station Street, Dalton Street and Hastings Street.  

The area where Napier’s former Civic building and library sat was a key focus for Council administrative services and governance. As such, a Steering Group was established in 2020 to oversee the vision, options exploration, and design for the future. The first phase in the delivery of this project was the creation of a Civic Precinct Framework. This set out the vision and principles to guide the development of the masterplan for the site and surrounding area. The principles ensure that decisions made over time are consistent and values-based and take full advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to create a space that serves the needs of our community and is an engaging destination.

Council engaged with other organisations including Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Ministry of Justice, to ensure there is thinking around shared services and facilities, and to ensure the spatial design considers our neighbours and their needs.

The Civic Precinct was a working title and the project is now known as Te Aka. Throughout this project, we have been and will continue to work alongside mana whenua, who will be involved in the naming of the buildings and spaces that will eventually result from Te Aka.

Background to the Library Project

With the library building deemed earthquake prone, a plan for its future was needed. Work on a Library Strategy was undertaken, which involved much community consultation and was adopted by Council in December 2018. The Strategy had some key focus areas:

  • Enabling access
  • Space for all
  • Knowledge advocacy - such as supporting lifelong learning, literacy and reading
  • Community collaborators - delivering outreach programmes and using our expertise to bring benefits to areas of our community that need it most.
  • Sustainable futures.

Alongside the Library Strategy, a long-list of 16 potential sites for the library were identified and reports on their suitability were developed for each.

In April 2019, Council was presented with the site reports and it was recommended to them that further due diligence be progressed on a short-list of sites. Due diligence was completed on the top three sites in late 2019.

In March 2020 it was recommended to Council to pursue the development of the library on the block bound by Station, Dalton and Hastings Streets.

The Library Project became part of the Library and Civic Area Plan.

Napier’s Civic Building demolition

Check out the video update from October 2022.


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