History of the Government Buildings
Government Buildings, 1876
The Government Buildings is New Zealand’s largest and grandest wooden building. It is an outstanding example of New Zealand’s architectural heritage and one of the great wooden buildings of the world.
It was built in 1876 - an important turning point in New Zealand’s political history. This was the year that provincial governments were abolished and a central government was established. This building was specifically designed to house New Zealand’s entire public service as a result of this change of government. For 56 years it was also the home of Ministers’ offices and the Cabinet room.
Like many colonial buildings of the era, it was built to resemble an Italian stone palace. This was to convey strength and stability in a young country
undergoing rapid growth and change.
Government Buildings, decorated for the
coronation of King George V, 24 Jun 1911
To avoid being seen as extravagant, the new government chose to build in timber, as stone was too expensive. The building may not have survived subsequent earthquakes had stone been used.
The building is also renowned for its extensive use of kauri, one of New Zealand’s premier native timbers. This could never be replicated in any building now because our remaining kauri forests are under permanent protection.
Before too long, the public service had rapidly expanded beyond the building's capacity. By 1990, the last of the public service departments had moved out, concluding 114 years of government service.