Welcome to the website of Historic Places Wellington Incorporated (HPW). We are a membership not-for-profit organisation based in Wellington, New Zealand. We advocate for heritage in the wider Wellington region, and offer events such as talks, walks and visits to historic places and buildings.  For more information, see our About Us page.  We are also on Facebook: facebook.com/historicplaceswellington

Wellington historic buildings to visit

Some of Wellington’s historic buildings can be regularly visited (although some require a guided tour). Click the links for more information:

Old St Paul’s Church; Parliament Buildings; Old Government Buildings; Supreme Court; Katherine Mansfield Birthplace; Government House; St Gerard’s Monastery; St Peter’s Church; Wellington Museum (including Nairn Street Cottage); Futuna Chapel, KaroriGolder Cottage, Upper Hutt; Paekakariki Station Museum, Paekakariki, Kapiti coast, Silver Stream heritage railway, Upper Hutt.

Wellington’s historic listed buildings

To see if a building is listed as historic by Heritage New Zealand (formerly NZ Historic Places Trust) click the link to search. Local councils also maintain a heritage list as part of their District Plans – see our useful links page. You can search the buildings on the Wellington City Council’s list here: www.wellingtoncityheritage.org.nz


News and Events

Memorial Day ceremony at the US Marines Memorial, Queen Elizabeth Park, Paekakariki on Monday 28 May at 10 am.


The Resene Architecture and Design Film Festival is in Wellington from May 24 to June 10 at the Embassy Theatre. The film ‘A test of faith’ is about the challenges, innovation and commitment required for the seismic strengthening of St Mary of the Angel’s church in Wellington.


Mt Cook history walk

If you intend doing this walk, we suggest you get on the mailing list for Mt Cook Mobilised so you will get notice of any cancellation: mtcookmobilised@gmail.com


To further promote the ongoing protection and future of significant historic and heritage sites, the Government has broadened the eligibility criteria of the National Heritage Preservation Incentive Fund (NHPIF) that Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga administers on its behalf.

From 1 May, applications are open to all private property owners of places listed on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero, with the exception of historic areas. This includes Category 1 and Category 2 properties, as well as sites of significance to Māori. The closing date for applications to the $500,000 contestable fund is 16 July.

More information available on the website: http://www.heritage.org.nz/protecting-heritage/national-heritage-preservation-incentive-fund (Information from Heritage NZ’s monthly email newsletter, 1 May 2018.)


The latest (March/April) edition of Heritage Today, issued by the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council Inc, is available from their online library. Contains some interesting reading – about many regional things and upcoming events; including a recently launched guide from the Wellington City Council on heritage shop fronts (copy here PDF: heritage-shop-fronts)


Karori campus planned demolishWe were very disappointed to hear of Ryman Healthcare’s plans to demolish about half the buildings at the former Karori Campus (see below for more information and photos of the campus). Ben Schrader, historian and HPW committee member, published this opinion piece on Scoop about it. This is while Heritage New Zealand are still considering it as a Category 1 heritage place and Ryman had asked for an extension to the submission time.

(Image from Dominion Post, 11 April 2018. Buildings in orange are the ones they want to demolish).


Turnbull House

Geotechnical testing took place at Turnbull House last month as Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga looks into strengthening options for the historic central Wellington property.

The Category 1 listed Turnbull House is now managed by Heritage New Zealand following a property portfolio realignment announced in June last year with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Department of Conservation. It has been closed since 2012 after being deemed earthquake prone by the Wellington City Council.

Manager Heritage Assets Central, Paulette Wallace, says the geotechnical testing was an important first step in assessing the physical condition of the property and surrounds.

The site work comes two months before the centenary of Alexander Turnbull’s death on 28 June 1918. His collection was bequeathed to the government and his three-storey brick house, purchased by the government, was opened to the public as the Alexander Turnbull Library on the second anniversary of his death in 1920. (Information from Heritage NZ’s monthly email newsletter, 1 May 2018.)


Erskine Tragedy

In a decision released on 25 January the Environment Court has approved the demolition of the Erskine College Main Building. The Wellington Company (the site’s owner) had appealed a Save Erskine College Trust (SECT) heritage order over the Category 1 heritage building – for more on the history of the preservation battle see our Erskine College page. Heritage New Zealand (HNZ) was a party to the case and argued for the building’s retention.

The Court conceded that the “Erskine site is of outstanding heritage significance” and the demolition of the Main Building on its “heritage values … will be significant and irreversible.” However, it accepted The Wellington Company’s argument that it could not afford to adaptively re-use the Main Building as well as restore the chapel. An alternative to let both buildings remain as they were until someone else found a use for the buildings was rejected by the Court on (seismic-related) health and safety grounds. It therefore found “that the better outcome for heritage is to agree to a partial nullification of the heritage order and allow demolition of the main building in order, upon appropriate conditions, to secure the long term retention of the chapel.” The Court ordered that The Wellington Company has to strengthen the chapel before other works are carried out on the site. It is presently in talks with SECT and HNZ to develop the conditions for the chapel’s strengthening.

HPW is pleased the Erskine Chapel will be saved and reused, but we don’t see the decision as a great win for heritage. Robbing Peter to pay Paul – demolishing the Main Building to save the Chapel – is not the way to advance good heritage outcomes. The whole Erskine site is a Category 1 listed place and the demolition of an essential component of it is a terrible loss. This classification ought to mean that owners and territorial authorities are obliged to maintain the historical integrity of such places. In supporting the owner’s request to make the site a Special Housing Area, the Wellington City Council contributed to undermining Erskine’s heritage values.

The whole saga shows up the ineffectiveness of New Zealand’s heritage legislation – again. We think what is needed is a new statutory framework that provides stronger protection for built heritage. Until that happens, we’re likely to see other Erskine-like tragedies.

Here are a few photos of the interior of the main block.



Wellington motorcycles

The owners of the former Wellington motorcycles “earthquake prone” building in Kent Terrace have applied to demolish it. Although it isn’t heritage listed, it does form a nice streetscape with the heritage-listed Embassy Theatre next door. Read the news item here.
Surely at least retaining the facade could be an option? As the owners do not intend to “immediately redevelop the area” there will be an empty space (or carpark) here for … how long? “An exact timeframe is not presently known”.


DSC02738Victoria University of Wellington has sold the Karori Campus (formerly Wellington Teachers’ College) to Ryman Healthcare. The modernist campus was designed by architects Toomath and Wilson in the 1960s.

We had a letter to the editor published in the Dominion Post on 15 December 2017:

“Karori Campus

Following the sale of the former Karori Teachers’ College by Victoria University to Ryman Healthcare, Historic Places Wellington urges that as much of the existing fabric of the Modernist campus be retained as possible. The complex was designed by the celebrated Wellington architect, William Toomath, between 1963 and 1977 and it is the best ensemble of Brutalist architecture in New Zealand. Its wholesale demolition would be a huge cultural loss for this city and the country.

Modernist architecture is presently not a universally loved style.  This mindset will almost inevitably shift as it has for earlier architectural styles. We are sure that future generations will value Modernist buildings both for their architecture and for what they reveal about twentieth century New Zealand life.

We therefore exhort the new owners to seek the adaptive re-use of the exisiting buildings on the site. We’re sure that conservation and other architects could come up with new plans that could imaginatively meld the old and the new. This could be a huge win both for Rymans and the residents who will make the place their home.

Ben Schrader for Historic Places Wellington.”

You can read more about it in an article written by Rebecca Ford (Museum and Heritage Studies, 2016) and, also, on the Architecture Centre website.

Click here for a copy of updates from the Save the Karori Campus group (pdf): Collation of Updates 1 though 13 from the Save the Karori Campus Group and the latest updates: (pdf)  Update 14  and Update 15. Here is a media statement from Ryman Healthcare: Media Statement from Ryman on Karori campus.

A number of people were invited to have a guided tour through some of the buildings in November 2017. These are some of the photos.



Victoria University of Wellington, which also owns the Gordon Wilson Flats at 320 The Terrace, wishes to demolish the building. It is not currently habitable. A city council panel approved the proposal to take the Gordon Wilson flats off the council’s heritage list. The Architectural Centre appealed the decision. The decision from the Environment Court on Gordon Wilson Flats came out on 9 August 2017. The appeal by the Architectural Centre is allowed and Gordon Wilson Flats should not be taken off the Council’s heritage list.

The decision noted that the appeal process had: “provided information that raises the heritage significance architecturally, socially and technically … of the GWF. Rather than diminishing the building’s heritage value … it has in fact strengthened the reasons for it to be listed” (at [51]). For more information about the Gordon Wilson Flats as architectural heritage, see the website of the Architectural Centre.

gordon wilson flats

The Flats, which were built between 1957 and 1959, were on the City Council’s heritage list, but not on Heritage New Zealand’s Heritage List.

Historic Places Wellington financially supported the Architectural Centre’s appeal. The Committee held mixed views as to the architectural merit of the building – a reflection of wider community views – but all agreed that the delisting of a heritage building could set a dangerous precedent. It was on this basis that HPW gave its support. The Court’s rejection of the delisting will hopefully discourage other heritage building owners from taking this route


You can read some of the history of the Basin Reserve here (part 1) and here (part 2).


The Government’s fund called Heritage EQUIP opened for applications on 15 December 2016.  You can find more at this link: www.mch.govt.nz/heritageequip. This is separate from the facades and parapets policy. 

Applications are welcome from owners of all privately-owned Category 1 Heritage New Zealand listed buildings across the country and for Category 2 listed heritage buildings in areas of high to medium seismic risk. “Grants are available for minor works under the Retrofit component of the fund, as well as for larger projects.”

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment also has material about earthquake strengthening on its website. Including information about the unreinforced masonry buildings securing fund.


The newsletters of the Wellington Region Heritage Promotion Council are available from the WRHPC website library

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