Victoria University of Wellington confirms plans for national music centre

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Council has unanimously agreed to progress negotiations on a proposal to house its School of Music in Te Ngākau Civic Square in central Wellington, ensuring the long-standing vision to create a national music centre in the capital city can now be realised.

Subject to ongoing negotiations with the Wellington City Council, the University’s New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī will relocate to levels three and four of Te Matapihi/Central Library in Te Ngākau Civic Square, once strengthening and modernising work on the library is completed in early 2026.

Phase one of the national music centre is focused on the redevelopment of the Wellington Town Hall with phase two having been on hold while a suitable facility for the University’s music school teaching and administrative spaces was found.

Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Nic Smith says uncertainty around the costs and form of completing both phases of the project has been “challenging for our staff, our students and our loyal supporters” and he is delighted that a way forward has been found.

“This university is home to one of the leading music schools in Australasia. As we emerge from our recent financial challenges with optimism for the future, being able to offer excellent music education and performance in the heart of Pōneke Wellington will be an important part of reinvigorating the university and its role in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.”

Professor Smith says the University is mindful of the need to ensure it completes its involvement in the national music centre within its existing financial obligations and while remaining firmly on the pathway, started last year, back to financial sustainability.

“We have opportunities across our portfolio of assets that we will now develop in more detail to enable us to continue this project and realise the exciting vision while not negatively impacting our financial future.”

The vision underpinning the national music centre is a facility that will support greater access to music and the arts for all through spaces for musical innovation and collaboration and world-class acoustics and sound recording facilities.

A fundraising campaign, led by former Wellington Mayor Dame Kerry Prendergast, to realise the vision has already raised $22 million, with another $10 million in the pipeline.

Dame Kerry says it is fantastic to see the three partners in the project—the University, Wellington City Council and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra—working together to identify a solution that keeps all parts of the national music centre co-located in Te Ngākau Civic Square.

"I’m absolutely thrilled with the decision by Victoria University of Wellington Council members.

“In bringing together academia, local government, sound recording and the arts, we're not just creating a centre for music, we're fostering a hub for creativity, collaboration, and cultural enrichment.

“This is an investment in the future of our capital city and the wider region and one which will inspire generations to come."

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau says “this is a wonderful collaboration between the University, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, and Wellington city. We are excited to continue working with our partners to bring vibrancy to our city through the revitalised Te Ngākau precinct.”

Victoria University of Wellington’s decision to base the New Zealand School of Music Te Kōkī in the Te Matapihi/Central Library building is an exciting milestone for the visionary national music centre,” says New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) Chief Executive Peter Biggs.

“By confirming a new home within the Te Ngākau Civic Square Precinct, which includes the earthquake-strengthened and refurbished Wellington Town Hall, the NZSM, NZSO and Wellington City Council are able to fully utilise every advantage to what will be the first music centre of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, and bring the greatest music ever made to the heart of Wellington and the country.”