Flat Bush library project on hold

Howick Local Board chairwoman Adele White stands at the proposed location of the future Flat Bush library and community centre at the Ormiston Town Centre. Times photo Wayne Martin

People living in one of New Zealand’s fastest growing communities will have to wait a little longer to get their own library and community centre.

The Howick Local Board and Auckland Council have talked for years about delivering such public facilities in Flat Bush with the intention they would serve that suburb and the nearby Ormiston.

The minutes from a business meeting of the previous board in September 2019 says it voted to approve a particular block at Ormiston Town Centre as the location for a library and community hub.

The meeting’s agenda describes the library and community hub, as well as an aquatic and leisure centre, as being “priorities for the Howick Local Board and the Flat Bush community”.

“They form the board’s One Local Initiative advocacy item.

“They are also priorities in the community facilities network action plan to support the significant residential growth in the area.”

The agenda says Flat Bush’s population is expected to be 55,096 people by 2046.

It outlines the next steps for the library and community hub as “procurement of the design team and concept planning together with consideration for the early engagement of a contractor to better facilitate value for money outcomes”.

It then states that procurement has commenced.

“The design team will complete concept designs for the facility and these will be workshopped with the board in early 2020.”

Board chairperson Adele White says the board “had certainly expected” to see a community centre and library in Flat Bush by now.

“The Flat Bush and Ormiston community has quickly grown to being home for over 40,000 people, with local people now joined by newcomers to New Zealand.

“A community centre is essential in providing these residents with a space where they will share ideas, celebrate their cultures, and truly connect as a community.

“There are far-reaching benefits too of having an accessible library which provides a wide range of activities for all ages encouraging communication and learning.”

Council head of asset management and investment programme Rob Cairns says the Flat Bush library and community hub project was put on hold as part of the council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the financial constraints in its emergency budget 2020-2021.

“Prior to being put on hold, community engagement on the activities and services required was completed and procurement for a design team was well advanced.

“The library and community hub remains a priority project and will be delivered as a single integrated building offering multiple services and activities, on the northern side of the Ormiston Town Centre.

“Timing of progress is dependent on when budget is available through the [council’s] 2021-2031 long-term plan, which will be adopted in June 2021.

“The initial budget estimates for the development are $35 million.”

The need for a library and community centre in the area were raised by several speakers at the official opening of the $250 million-plus Ormiston Town Centre in March.

Among the speakers was Auckland mayor Phil Goff, who said many locals, as well as the Howick ward’s elected representatives, want to see the planned library and community hub project come to fruition.

“That will be a great social heart for this community as well,” he said.

“So a commercial heart, a social heart, and a community that is a great community.”