Defence Force needs to reverse deterioration of century-old building

defence bldg
Photo: Priscilla Williams

Report from from Historic Places Wellington
As the new Memorial Park moves towards completion, it is of concern that a key building in this landscape of military history is being allowed by its owners, the NZ Defence Force, to deteriorate to the point of possible demolition.

Located at the corner of Taranaki and Buckle Street, the brick building known usually as the General Headquarters Building was completed in 1912 and is probably the oldest existing military administration building remaining in New Zealand.

Designed in Edwardian Baroque style, it presents an elegant background in a 1913 photograph held in the Turnbull Library of a blockade in Buckle Street during the waterfront strike. But look at it now in the photograph above stripped of some surface ornamentation, windows boarded up, dirty and cracking façade, rusting roof and – greatest indignity of all – a garish hoarding across the great coat-of-arms above the entrance.

This is a listed building (Category 2) and an important part of the military history of Mt Cook. It bookends the street; the “twin” building at the Buckle/Tasman St corner being the former Police Station, now in private hands and in excellent exterior condition.

The Wellington Civic Trust has rightly called for the Defence building to be spruced up for the opening of the Memorial Park in April. We feel the Defence Force should be doing more than this. Closed for 20 years, the former general HQ building should now be strengthened and returned to reuse. This ugly duckling could once more become a swan.


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