Leys Institute: One year since closure

It’s nearly a year since the sudden shock closure of the Leys Institute Library and Gymnasium, due to council concerns around earthquake regulations.

The local community was blindsided and quickly organised to advocate for the buildings’ upgrading and reopening. A public protest outside the library in late February drew a crowd of around 150, all demanding that the buildings be speedily restored. Local Board chairperson Richard Northey spoke, promising to listen to the community’s wishes.

Friends of Leys Institute was established at that demonstration, with 125 people signing up as members on the spot. The membership has steadily grown month by month, and now numbers over 200. Friends of Leys Institute members have advocated for the buildings directly to the Local Board and Councillor Pippa Coom, and via submissions to Auckland Council and Local Board budgets and plans. Letters of support and articles on the Leys have been printed in every Ponsonby News this year.

Following a council report recommending strengthening of the buildings, Waitemat-a Local Board at its September meeting unanimously stated its support for the Leys Institute to be upgraded, and for library services to return. It also recommended selling property the council owns, that came from the Leys bequest in 1964, along with other property controlled by the Board, with the funds going to the Leys’ strengthening works.

Board Chairperson Richard Northey appeared before the November meeting of the council Finance and Property Committee to advocate for the Leys Institute to be restored, as soon as practical, in the next Long Term Plan.

So what happens now?

The next Council Long Term Plan (10 year plan) is due in 2021. According to council officials, the indicative business case for the Leys will be considered alongside others. Due to Covid 19, restrictions on budgets for the next few years are likely, so consideration of alternative ways of funding is being focussed on.

So, in principle, the buildings will be upgraded, but in practice, we don’t know when funds will be available. When it comes time for submissions to the 2021 Council Long Term Plan, please be ready to make a submission advocating for funds to be promptly allocated to the Leys Institute.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of Friends of Institute can email co-ordinator Helen Geary at heleng@maxnet.co.nz, and follow the Friends of Leys Institute Facebook page.