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Ashburton library opens new chapter

Ashburton library opens new chapter
Library manager Jill Watson couldn't stop smiling on the opening day of the new library, Te Kete Tuhinga. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Good things come to those who wait.

For the Ashburton District that is its new library, Te Kete Tuhinga, which was originally due to open at the end of 2022.

It finally opened on Monday, with library manager Jill Watson describing it as “the living room of the community”.

Watson started at the Ashburton Library in 1975, when the building was only eight years old.

In 2021, she said the new library would be the highlight of her career.

The day finally arrived, and it more than lived up to expectations.

“This is the single most exciting thing in a career that has seen a lot of change,’ Watson said.

“There were no computers in 1975."

Library staff had been so busy in the lead-up to the opening that the feelings of excitement were only being felt as the public flooded in on opening day.

Staff, both library and council alike, all had a “silly grin” reflecting their delight at seeing the public enjoying the new facility in large numbers, she said.

“This is everyone’s library.”

The building was buzzing with interested locals wanting a first glimpse of the new community facility on Monday, and the vast majority were suitably impressed.

Faith King with her children Avah,7, and Toby,5, enjoying the new childrens library area. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Faith King and her children Avah, 7, and Toby, sometimes visited the old library but plan to be more frequent users now.

“It’s great, a big space with plenty to do and the cool outdoor bit,” King said.

Avid library user Anita Murray was blown away by the size of the library.

“I think it’s amazing because it’s so spread out and there is so much room.”

Steve Murray said, “it was worth the wait, worth the money and the effort".

Mandy and Rose, 3, Shearer looking down on the historic Pioneer Hall that has been converted into a childrne's library. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

The historic Pioneer Hall has been absorbed into the complex and converted into a children’s library, which was proving popular.

Tara King was impressed at “having the old brick building inside the kid’s area as it adds a lot of character to a modern building".

shburton Mayor Neil Brown was pleased to see the public pouring through the new library. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

Mayor Neil Brown was feeling a mixture of excitement and relief about the opening.

“It’s sensational what we have got here, and the number of people enjoying it is amazing, and it will only grow as time goes on.

“It’s just like Christmas – worth the wait.”

Braxton Williams whizzing doiwn the slide in the outdoor coutyard. PHOTO JONATHAN LEASK/LDR

The library is only half of Te Whare Whakatere.

The other half is the civic centre. Council staff are scheduled to move in next week and the first council meeting in the new chambers, Hine Paaka, will take place on February 7.

Chief executive Hamish Riach said there would likely be some “tidy up of minor issues” after the staff moved in.

An official opening date is yet to be confirmed as the council is coordinating with the Prime Minister’s office, he said.

The final cost of the building, initially budgeted at $56.7m, won’t be known until the “resolution of all matters between the council and construction and design contractors”.

“It is too early to say when that might be, but we currently remain on track to exceed the $56.75m budget by [about] 10%, as previously announced.”

The project also received $20m from the government’s shovel-ready infrastructure fund.

By Jonathan Leask