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Nelson School of Music Upgrade


Contractor: Coman Construction
Project Manager: Opus
Status: Complete

Project complete - June 2018

The finishing touches to the strengthening and upgrade project were completed in June 2018. The Nelson Centre of Musical Arts celebrated with a series of events. To keep in touch with other events happening at the revamped building, visit their website.


April 2018

While some delays have been experienced due to more seismic strengthening work being needed than originally thought, and the discovery of asbestos in the building, the project is now nearing completion. The first concert scheduled to take place in the upgraded auditorium will take place in late April. Following that, just the finishing touches remain to be completed.

June 2017

The earthquake strengthening and upgrade of the Nelson School of Music is continuing to make good progress.

The most exciting developments are happening around the main auditorium where strengthening works are now progressing well after some initial challenges.You will see a big tent built over the southern part of the building. Roof tiles are being removed to finalize the strengthening works but work is also starting on reshaping the roof and gables to their original design.

This work is a recent addition to the project since the School of Music gained additional funding to reinstate the heritage gables and elevations to the north – east – south sides of the auditorium. Since then a lot of planning has gone into undoing most of the 1970’s modifications and bringing the building back to its original grandeur.

Specialist contractors from Mosgiel are manufacturing elements to match the original features as closely as possible, using lots of historic photos and descriptions. These sections will be installed over the next few months. Next month the tent will be extended over the rest of the auditorium roof to continue work on that section as well.

In other areas of the project:

  • The roof of the new recital hall is finished, most of the exterior cladding is on and electrical cabling installation has started.
  • Kidson House also has a new roof which was needed as the old one was in need of replacement and the interior work is progressing.
  • In the foyer area, the southern part of the new floor has been poured with the northern half, towards the main entry, being prepared for pour next week.
  • The organ is being refurbished in Timaru for reinstatement late this year or in early 2018.

The contractors also want to thank nearby residents for their patience and cooperation with the disruption created by a project of this size.

January 2017

Work is continuing on the strengthening and upgrade project and all is going to plan at this stage.

November 2016

IMG 4011

The demolition work has largely been completed and the foundations for the new southern extension are currently being laid. The strengthening work to the main auditorium has begun. This part of the project is expected to be finished by August 2017.

The Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage has allocated additional funding to restore heritage features to the auditorium. This work isstill subject to resource consent, design and final budget approval. It may add extra time to the length of the project but this is still being assessed at this stage.


With fundraising goals achieved, the Nelson School of Music Trust appointed Coman Construction to carry out the strengthening and redevelopment of this iconic building. Construction is now likely to start on site in September and should take around 12 months to complete. The $6.4 million redevelopment project includes:

  • Earthquake strengthening of the existing auditorium
  • Tiered rows at the rear of the auditorium and new comfortable seating throughout
  • Improved heating and cooling systems
  • Preserving the brilliant acoustics of the auditorium
  • Modern concert hall lighting and sound systems
  • Upgraded entry foyer
  • Improved ticketing and toilet facilities in the Beatrice Kidson building
  • Stage level access throughout the rear of the building
  • New build on the old Rainey House site for a full size orchestral rehearsal room/recital theatre, new studios and green rooms, a library, classrooms and a remote learning/keyboard lab
  • Environmentally controlled storage room for the Steinway piano.
December 2015

In December 2015, the NSOM was awarded$1.2 million in grants from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board. With the $3 million already committed by Council in the 2014-2015 Long Term Plan, $850,000 from the Rata Foundation and $350,000 from the Endowment Trust, the school is now focusing on public fundraising for the remaining $1 million required. So far $600,000 has been raised, with a further $4-500,000 still to be found.

The concept plan for the building restoration can be seen below:

NSOM plan


The Nelson School of Music is a key piece of the city’s arts infrastructure and has a long association with the internationally regarded Adam Chamber Music Festival. The School is valued by our community for the music and performance training it provides to all ages of people, as a music performance venue and as a category one heritage building with a world class auditorium. The main auditorium has excellent acoustics and is considered to be one of the best in the Southern Hemisphere for chamber music.

In December 2013 the building was identified as earthquake prone and the Nelson School of Music Trust closed its auditorium to mitigate this risk.

In the 2014/2015 Long Term Plan, Council committed to supporting the NSOM Trust with its redevelopment building by way of a capital grant of up to $3 million, on the basis that it raises at least an equal amount from other funders, sponsorship and community fundraising. Council considers the reopening of the auditorium a priority for its cultural and economic value to Nelson.