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Leys Institute buildings to close

Published: 19 December 2019

The 114-year old Auckland Council-owned Leys Institute buildings will close from 5pm, Friday 20 December until further notice.

The twin buildings are home to the Leys Institute Library and Gymnasium. A recently completed seismic assessment has found structural issues that make the buildings unsafe to occupy in the unlikely event of an earthquake.

Auckland Council’s Ian Maxwell, Director Customer and Community Services, says: “We have taken the necessary decision to close both Leys Institute buildings to ensure the safety of our staff and our customers.

“We know the likelihood of an earthquake in Auckland is very low compared to many other parts of the country. There is no immediate risk to people currently using the buildings. The buildings are considered safe under normal conditions.

“However, the engineering assessment has confirmed that there is a risk to the public in the event of an earthquake and public safety is paramount and must be our foremost priority.

“We’ve been working with our commercial operators, community providers and our staff to ensure a smooth transition of services over the past week and we are continuing to work with our partners on alternative locations.

“The Leys Institute buildings are wonderful examples of Auckland’s heritage and closing buildings that are a cornerstone of local community life is a difficult decision. They have a very long history of serving Aucklanders but unfortunately, it’s time for us to move out for the time being.”

Plans are in place for library services to continue within the local community and the council will work with our community partners and customers on alternative arrangements for the gymnasium and community space.

No library staff jobs will be affected by the buildings closure.

Auckland Council will also be considering options to restore Leys Institute and make it safe and fit for purpose.

Library service changes

The Leys Institute Library will close Friday 20 December. Staff will provide customers with information about alternative library services.

A mobile library service will be at Leys Institute from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 21st, Monday 23rd and Tuesday 24th December for returns and limited borrowing.

A mobile library will also operate outside the Ley Institute on certain days over January. Information regarding days and times will at aucklandlibraries.govt.nz.

A boutique pop-up library is expected open in the nearby retail area in February.

Meanwhile, customers can return library books and items to any Auckland Library or visit the nearby Auckland Central Library or Grey Lynn Library for all library services.

Leys Institute Gymnasium and hall

We are working with our local partner, Ponsonby Community Centre, to relocate the activities which take place within the gymnasium to alternative locations: ponsonbycommunity.org.nz

Similarly, we are working with our customers who have confirmed bookings for the hall to help them into other suitable local venues. A range of venues are available here.

The Leys Institute

William Leys was Chairman of the Ponsonby School Committee in the late 1800s. Leys was concerned about the education of the boys he saw loitering on local street corners. After his death in 1899, funds provided from his bequest and by his brother, Thomson Leys, made possible the building of the Leys Institute Library in 1905.

It was the first major public building in the expanding suburb of Ponsonby and the first library in the then council area. In 1906 a gymnasium was added to the complex, built from a donation made by local resident, William Mason.

In the early 1900s the complex was a vibrant community centre, with an active library, gym and halls used by various clubs. The library was gifted to Auckland by the Leys family in 1964 and has been used for the benefit of the community since.

The Ley Institute buildings are registered as Category I historic places by Heritage New Zealand.

Earthquake-prone buildings

In 2017, new earthquake-prone legislation was introduced by the government.

Auckland is categorised as a low seismic risk area meaning Auckland Council is only required to identify buildings as potentially earthquake- prone that are unreinforced masonry buildings or built before 1976.

The law requires building owners, including Auckland Council, to make identified earthquake-prone buildings compliant within a 35-year time period. For heritage buildings, this stretches to 45 years.

Auckland Council is undertaking detailed seismic risk assessments of council’s portfolio of around 2500 buildings and structures across the region. To date it has completed around 350 assessments and expects to have the remainder completed by 2021.

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