Premier House, at 260 Tinakori Road, Thorndon, Wellington, New
Zealand, is the official residence of the Prime Minister of New
A private house purchased for the Prime Minister's official residence
when government shifted its base to
in 1865, it was first
greatly expanded then, as its wooden structure deteriorated, shunned
by the more modest political leaders on learning the cost of repairs.
It was leased to private individuals for six years in the late 1890s
then returned to use as an official residence for the Prime Minister
when a new government in 1935 wished to
For more than half a century generations of children came to know the
building as their Dental Clinic until it was renovated and
2 Official residents
2.1 Dental clinic
3 Official residents continued
4 Other official residences
4.1 64-66 Harbour View Road
4.2 41 Pipitea Street
4.3 Vogel House
7 External links
The original house was built in the early days of the New Zealand
colony in 1843 for Wellington's first Mayor, George Hunter. This
house, or at least a portion of it, is still located at the southern
end of the current building. It has been greatly expanded over the
years. Later the residence of
Nathaniel Levin the house was bought for
use by the country's Premier in 1865. A
Wellington newspaper, elated
by the city’s new status, thought the £2900 price "cheap". An
Auckland paper called it a "monstrous waste of public money".
1864–1865 : Hon Sir Frederick Weld, 6th Premier[note 1]
1865–1869 : Hon Sir Edward Stafford, 3rd Premier
1869–1873 : Hon Sir William Fox, 2nd Premier
1873–1875 : Hon Sir Julius Vogel, 8th Premier. The house
changed little until
Julius Vogel and his wife, Mary, arrived in
1873. Within a year they had turned it into an eight-bedroom
mansion complete with conservatory and ballroom. The grounds featured
what is thought to have been the country's first tennis court. The
Vogels were noted for their lavish entertaining resulting in the house
acquiring the nickname of "The Casino".
(1875–1876 : Hon Dr Daniel Pollen, 9th Premier for 7 months)
1876–1876 : Hon Sir Julius Vogel, 8th Premier.
(1877–1879 : Hon Sir George Grey, 11th Premier)
1879–1882 : Hon Sir John Hall, 12th Premier
1882–1883 : Hon Sir Frederick Whitaker, 5th Premier
1883–1884 : Hon Sir Harry Atkinson, 10th Premier
1884–1887 : Hon Sir
Julius Vogel as a cabinet minister in the
government of Hon Sir Robert Stout, 13th Premier More extensions
were made to the house due to Vogel's poor health. His recurring gout
resulted in an extra office being added for Cabinet meetings and in
1886 the construction of New Zealand's first lift.
The country entered a Depression in the late 1880s and after the
Vogels moved out, the new government tried to sell the property.
MPs’ salaries had been cut, and the Liberal ministers of the 1890s
had to live cheaply. But the press and public fought back. Wellington
people valued its spacious grounds as a public amenity. Only the
furniture was sold. Some suggested turning the site into an old
men’s home or a university, but it stayed empty.
1887–1891 : Hon Sir Harry Atkinson, 10th Premier
1891–1893 : Rt Hon John Ballance, 14th Premier
(1893–1906 : Rt Hon Richard John Seddon, 15th Premier.
Following Ballance's death Seddon remained in his modest ministerial
residence at 47 Molesworth Street and the Tinakori Street residence
was leased out from 1895 to 1900 when it became a ministerial
1893–1895 apparently vacant
1895–1899 : Sir Walter Buller, lawyer and ornithologist.
1899–1899 : Percy Smith, surveyor general and secretary for
lands and mines and ethnologist.
Joseph, later Sir
Joseph Ward Baronet, and his family at Awarua 1906
1900–1912 : Rt Hon Sir
Joseph Ward Bt, as a cabinet minister
then Prime Minister from 1906. Now called Awarua, the name of Ward's
electorate, the house again became one of the capital's main social
places, hosting many formal and informal parties, especially after
Ward became Prime Minister following Seddon's death in 1906. One party
of particular note was the farewell party given by Miss Eileen Ward,
daughter of Sir Joseph Ward, to farewell near neighbour Katherine
Mansfield a few days before she left
New Zealand for the last time in
1912–1925 : Rt Hon William F Massey, Prime Minister renamed
it Ariki Toa, ‘home of the chief’. During the First World War the
Masseys used it for patriotic activities.
1925–1928 : Rt Hon J Gordon Coates, Prime Minister. The last
Prime Minister to live there. Further extensions were made to the
building in 1926 when
Gordon Coates lived there including rebuilding
the conservatory and adding an enclosed veranda above it but major
maintenance work seems to have been deferred again.
1928–1935 : Rt Hon George Forbes, Prime Minister lived in a
flat at Parliament House. Parts of Premier House's floor had subsided
up to 30 cm. The ground floor was occupied by the Unemployed and
Transport Departments and the upper floor as a ministerial residence
by the families of Mr Masters, a former leader of the Legislative
Council and Minister of Public Works, Mr Ransom. Following a number
of parliamentary debates it was decided by popular demand to not
subdivide the land or build Ministerial flats on the grounds.
The garden continued to be the location of subscription garden parties
raising funds for major charities like YWCA and Girl Guides.
In 1935 Prime Minister
Michael Joseph Savage
Michael Joseph Savage faced with rebuilding the
Country's economy in the midst of the
Great Depression lived in
Seddon's former residence at 47 Molesworth Street later purchasing a
house high in Northland.
Premier House was turned into a school for
dental nurses and a children's dental clinic, with 40, later 50,
chairs known to all as the murder house. Before fluoridation
the molars of the nation's children were soon cored with amalgam.
At the time, Mr Langstone, the Minister of Lands, was living there and
a new house was built for him in the grounds on the site of the
stable. During the war the garden grew vegetables for the forces
After many years of institutional use by the 1980s the building was in
a battered state. It was rescued from this decline by Dr Michael
Bassett, Minister of Internal Affairs, who initiated moves for the
restoration of the building to its early grandeur.
Premier House in 2015
The restoration was undertaken by Auckland's Grant Group Architects
and L.T. McGuinness Construction between December 1989 and 1991.
Considerable slumping had occurred over the years, so the building had
to be brought into square and levelled. Walls were stripped,
straightened and re-lined, and old fire-damaged and rotten timbers
were cut out and replaced. Old finishing timbers were replaced with
timber cut to an identical profile. A new fire sprinkler system,
heating, and air conditioning systems were installed along with a new
Since May 1990, it has again been the Prime Minister's official
residence when in the capital. The new decor includes a considerable
New Zealand art, both old and new. The interior
decoration, while carefully reproducing many missing original
features, does not resemble or evoke a 19th-century house in any way.
The pale colour scheme gives some shape to the agglomeration of
The conservation of Premier House, as it was renamed, was a 1990
Sesquicentennial project. That year Geoffrey Palmer and his wife,
Margaret, became its first official residents.
Official residents continued
John Key hosts John Kerry
1990–1990: Geoffrey Palmer
1990–1990: Mike Moore
1990–1997: Jim Bolger
1997–1999: Jenny Shipley
1999–2008: Helen Clark
2008–2016: John Key
2017-present: Jacinda Ardern
Bill English (2016–2017) did not live at Premier
House during his term because
New Zealand law prohibits
Wellington-based MPs from claiming taxpayer-funded accommodation in
the capital. His successor, Jacinda Ardern, who is based in
Auckland, has indicated she will move into the official residence.
The property has a land area of 1.5 hectares (14,569 square metres)
and a rateable value (in 2012) of NZ$13,800,000.
Other official residences
64-66 Harbour View Road
Michael Joseph Savage
Michael Joseph Savage (until 1939 at 47 Molesworth Street)
lived in a house “Hill Haven” at 64-66 Harbour View Road,
Northland, Wellington, which was subsequently used by his successor
Peter Fraser until 1949. It was purchased for Michael Joseph Savage
"because it is now not necessary (to be within easy walking distance
of Parliament) and a Prime Minister is no longer bound to the lowly
areas of the Thorndon flats".
41 Pipitea Street
Sidney Holland lived at No 41 Pipitea Street, Thorndon. The
house was subsequently used by Walter Nash,
Keith Holyoake and
Geoffrey Palmer, and as a ministerial residence by
Jim Sutton and Nick
Smith. The house was also used for the Pacific Island Affairs
From 1976 to 1990
Vogel House in
Lower Hutt was the official residence
of the prime minister. It was used by
Robert Muldoon and others.
^ "Official Residence. We understand, says the Independent of the 14th
inst., that the Government have completed the purchase of the house
and grounds formerly the property of N. Levien, Esq., situated on the
Tinakori road, for the sum of £2,950. It will now be the official
residence of the Hon. F. A. Weld." Hawkes Bay Herald
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Premier House.
History Group of the
New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage,
Housing the Prime Minister
^ Hawke's Bay Herald, Volume 8, Issue 586, 18 March 1865, Page 2
Wellington Independent, Volume XXI, Issue 2482, 19 February 1867,
^ Editorial, Evening Post, Volume IX, Issue 78, 14 May 1873, Page 2
^ "Prime Minister's Residence". Register of Historic Places. Heritage
New Zealand. Retrieved 17 April 2011.
^ Arrival of Sir Julius Vogel. Evening Post, Volume XIII, Issue 35, 11
February 1876, Page 2
^ Political. Oamaru Mail, Volume IV, Issue 1322, 8 October 1884, Page
^ a b c d e f g h i j Home of Premiers. Evening Post, Volume CXXIII,
Issue 131, 4 June 1937, Page 7
^ General News. Press, Volume LXV, Issue 19647, 17 June 1929, Page 8
^ Prime Minister's residence. Press, Volume LXV, Issue 19771, 8
November 1929, Page 12
^ Here and There, Evening Post, Volume CXV, Issue 35, 11 February
1933, Page 20
^ 260 Tinakori Road, Evening Post, Volume CXXIII, Issue 130, 3 June
1937, Page 10
^ Fran Wilde, Thorndon, My Brilliant Suburb, Platform Publishing,
Wellington 1985 ISBN 0908725000
^ Report of the Commission of Inquiry 1957
^ Work Increases, Evening Post, Volume CXXXV, Issue 20, 25 January
1943, Page 6
Bill English legally can't live in Premier House". Stuff. 1
February 2017. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
^ "Jacinda Ardern's new government sworn in". Stuff. 26 October 2017.
Retrieved 27 October 2017.
Wellington rates property information database
^ Local Gossip,
New Zealand Herald, Volume LXXVI, Issue 23339, 6 May
1939, Page 4
^ Dominion Post (Wellington), 2012: 1 December pE1 & 26 December
^ Dominion Post (Wellington), 2013: 19 February, pA6
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