By Nik Bullard, Curator Social History

The inaugural Wellington City Heritage Week kicks off this year and runs from 23-29 October. This is brought to us by Historic Places Wellington, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and Wellington City Council. It will be a week of community hosted events that will provide the public with the opportunity to experience the city’s social, built, and cultural heritage close-up.

Museums Wellington has three of its four sites based in heritage buildings – The Carter Observatory (Space Place) which opened in 1941, The Bond Store (now Wellington Museum) built in 1892 by renowned architect Frederick de Jersey Clere and Nairn Street Cottage built circa 1860 by early settlers Catherine and William Wallis. Our fourth site, the Cable Car Museum, contains the heritage-listed Cable Car Winding House.

4 Museums

We also look after another heritage site – the found remains of the Inconstant sailing ship (or ‘Plimmer’s Ark’) at the Old Bank Arcade on Lambton Quay (a Category 1 listed BNZ heritage building). Recently we refurbished this display to modernise it and simplify the interpretation. Here we tell the story of early settler and successful entrepreneur, John Plimmer, and his bonded warehouse ‘Ark’ (built in the wrecked Inconstant).

Plimmer’s Ark. Photo: Museums Wellington

As part of the refurb, we included a timeline of other notable Wellington buildings (the Ark is, after all, the story of an old building within an old building!). It was also a great way of celebrating the ethnic diversity of Wellington as seen through the various cultural sites, churches and halls.

A number of the sites we included are listed with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) – Te Aro pā, the de Luxe Cinema (now the Embassy Theatre, 1924), the first Labour government’s first state house in Miramar (1937) and Futuna Chapel in Karori (1961).

(1937) First state house in Miramar. Heritage New Zealand
The first Labour Government’s first State House. Photo: Heritage New Zealand


Futuna Chapel. Photo by Wills, Tony

HNZPT doesn’t have a minimum age requirement for buildings to be listed, as this would be “inconsistent with contemporary conservation philosophy and with the perception of the past and present as a continuum, particularly for iwi and hapū”.

(1974) Img 2 Tapu Te Ranga living marae, Museums Wellington
Tapu Te Ranga living marae. Photo: Museums Wellington
(1974) Img 1 Tapu Te Ranga living marae, Museums Wellington
Tapu Te Ranga living marae. Photo: Museums Wellington

With this in mind, it’s interesting to note the sites on our timeline that aren’t yet listed: Pipitea pā (marae), the Chinese Mission Hall on Frederick Street (1907), the Greek Orthodox Church on Hania Street (1950), Tapu Te Ranga living marae in Island Bay (1974) and the Congregational Christian Church in Newtown (1984). Perhaps it’s time for people involved in these organisations (or interested others) to look at protecting these significant buildings?

(1907) Img 1 St Peter's Chinese Mission Hall. Museums Wellington
Chinese Mission Hall Photo: Museums Wellington
(1950) Img 2 Greek Orthodox Church. Museums Wellington
Greek Orthodox Church. Photo: Museums Wellington
(1984) Img 1 Samoan Church. Museums Wellington
Congregational Christian Church. Photo: Museums Wellington

I can see that there may be perceived drawbacks to registering your building or site. However, entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero does not automatically equal protection or create regulatory obligations on the property owner. Nor does it create specific rights or control over the property. But it may lead to the property being protected under local government’s district plan heritage schedules.

So if registered buildings and sites aren’t assessed against an age criteria, how are they assessed? According to HNZPT, all proposed historic place entries on the List are assessed according to the following criteria: aesthetic, archaeological, architectural, cultural, historical, scientific, social, spiritual, technological and traditional, and must meet at least one criterion to be eligible for entry.

This implies that we can apply to register any building or site that we feel fits the criteria. Currently there are no Wellington buildings listed by renowned architects Ian Athfield  and Roger Walker. It would be a crime against architecture if some or all of these were lost (as Walker’s Wellington Club already has been).

I wonder what other buildings on our timeline will become listed in the future? The new Bharat Bhavan Indian Hall in Kilbirnie (1997), the Wellington Masjid (mosque) in Kilbirnie (2000), Te Raukura/Te Wharewaka on the waterfront (2011)? They all appear to fit HNZPT’s criteria.

(1992) Img 1 Bharat Bhavan Indian Hall. Museums Wellington
Bharat Bhavan Indian Hall. Photo: Museums Wellington
Wellington Masjid (mosque). Photo: Museums Wellington
(2011) Te wharewaka o Poneke. Lighthaus Ltd
Te Raukura/Te Wharewaka. Photo: Lighthaus

Are there any buildings or sites that you can think of that may need registering to be listed as historic?

Wellington City Heritage Week at Museums Wellington:

Nairn Street Cottage Open Day

WHEN: Monday 23 October from 10am-4pm
WHERE: Nairn Street Cottage, 68 Nairn Street
COST: Gold coin entry

Magical Mystery Drawing Tour

We’re celebrating Heritage Week with a drawing tour – and that’s all we’re saying! Come along with your preferred materials and we’ll take you to surprise locations where you can put your pencils, charcoal or paint to paper. In the week before, we’ll send you heritage clues that will disclose the meet up spot… Rain date Sunday 29th October.

WHEN: Saturday 28 October from 11am – 2pm
WHERE: To be disclosed!
PRICE: $20 (bookings essential)

heritage week