Government Buildings

The Government Buildings at 28-30 Cathedral Square were designed in 1909 to accommodate many of the Government Departments in Christchurch.

Plans for the Government Buildings
Plans for the Government Buildings. © Christchurch Star

The Government Buildings were constructed during the government of Sir Joseph Ward, a time when economic welfare and growth in population required the expansion of government services throughout New Zealand. Since the Chief Post Office in Cathedral Square could no longer accommodate these expanding departments, it was decided to erect an entirely new building rather than enlarge the Chief Post Office.

The site chosen for the new building, situated in the south east corner of Cathedral Square, was comprised of Town Sections 739, 741, 743 and 745. The Government acquired the land under the Public Works Act in 1908.

The selected architect, Joseph Clarkson Maddison, drew his plans in 1909. The building he designed was influenced by the style of Italian High Renaissance palazzo. Rectangular in plan, the building features a rusticated stone base and red brick walls. The street front opens onto Cathedral Square, facing west. Above the entrance is a portico with the pediment supported by four columns. This use of restrained classicism was intended to project an image of governmental authority.

In 1910 the firm J and W Jamieson was awarded the tender for construction. The foundation stone for the building was laid by Sir Joseph Ward on 20 November 1911. Although the contract stipulated a completion date of 1 May 1912, the work was not completed until March 1913.

Following its completion the building became the offices for various Government departments.

In 1960 the parapets of the building were strengthened to guard against earthquake risk. However, the building did suffer damage from an earthquake on 25 January 1968 which caused new cracks to open and plaster to fall from the second floor ceilings. Noticeable settlement also occurred between 1971-1975 as a result of the construction of the adjacent Carruca House and the Housing Corporation Building. By January 1980 considerable cracking in the southwest corner and a diagonal shear crack in a brick column had developed.

In 1984 the building was registered as a Category 1 Historic Place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

The Ministry of Works and Development was the last Government department to remain in the building and following its relocation in 1989, the building remained empty. In 1991 it was faced with the possibility of being demolished. The building was purchased by the Christchurch City Council and in 1995 it was sold on to a developer for Heritage Hotels on the condition that its architectural integrity was retained.

The building suffered minor damage during the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and was able to reopen as the Heritage Christchurch hotel in September 2013.