Hokitika Landmark earmarked for $22m restoration

Seddon House in Hokitika, once a hub for government on the West Coast, has been earmarked for government use once again.

“Today we’re announcing a $22 million investment from the Government’s $3 billion infrastructure fund for shovel ready projects for the purchase and restoration of Seddon House in the heart of Hokitika” said Minister for Rural Communities and West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor.  

“This investment into Hokitika demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the West Coast.  The restoration of this building will preserve a prominent heritage feature which is loved and admired by locals and visitors. 

“Restoration of this building has been talked about for years, this commitment means it will now happen,” said Damien O’Connor. 

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga will own and manage the Edwardian Baroque style building, also known as the Government Buildings and Courthouse, which was built between 1907 and 1914. 

Seddon House, a brick, timber and corrugated iron construction, is a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero.  It will undergo seismic strengthening and be refitted for use as offices for the Department of Conservation (DOC), which will lease the building.

“I am proud to be part of a government restoring this Hokitika treasure, designed by the same architect as Parliament House, John Campbell, for use by DOC in the centre of town. This is true regional development,” said Associate Minister of Finance David Parker.

“Historic buildings are preserved when they have a use and a purpose. I look forward to the building once again being a hub for government on the West Coast, with a significant government purpose – the stewardship of conservation lands and treasured species operating from this site. I’m pleased that the 85 Department of Conservation permanent staff based in Hokitika will remain in the heart of the town” said Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.

Seddon House is a significant landmark in Hokitika, and is the largest and grandest historical building in downtown Hokitika. Numerous functions of government have operated out of the building, before it became privately owned in 1994.

As the location of a number of government departments over a period of 80 years, Seddon House was a key administrative centre for the whole of the West Coast. The activities housed in the building were instrumental  in the economic and political growth and development of the West Coast.

Seddon House and the Seddon Statue will join 44 other properties Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga cares for nationwide on behalf of the public.  Other properties include the Kerikeri Mission Complex in Northland, Old Government Buildings in Wellington, Kate Sheppard House in Christchurch and the birthplace of our frozen meat industry, Totara Estate near Oamaru.

Conservation land makes up over 83% of the total area of the West Coast. Relocating DOC to this location upholds the mana of public land and the importance of conservation in the region.

All approvals are in principle and subject to contract negotiations. Investment values are also subject to change.

 

Background information

Who was Seddon?

Richard Seddon followed the allure of gold to New Zealand and was a goldfields miner, first elected to parliament in 1879. In 1893 he became the Prime Minister of New Zealand, a post he held until his death in 1906. He was the only Prime Minister in New Zealand from the West Coast and remains the longest serving Prime Minister in New Zealand’s history. 

More about Seddon here: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/people/richard-seddon

How much did the building cost to purchase?

$400,000

What condition is the building in at present?

The building has not been adequately maintained and has been unoccupied for some time. However, the construction is durable and in better than expected condition.

How many people work in the Hokitika DOC office?

85 people work at the Hokitika DOC regional office campus, with 41 seasonal staff.

Did DOC consider leaving the Hokitika CBD?

DOC has considered a number of options for accommodating staff, which included sites outside of the Hokitika CBD.  However it was recognised that it was important to stay in the commercial core of Hokitika. Keeping large organisations such as DOC in the CBD is important for the vitality and economic health of the downtown area and the businesses there.

Will the building continue to be known as Seddon House?

The immediate priority is to ensure the property is strengthened, restored and reopened as a valued and important community facility.  Discussions will be held with iwi, stakeholders and the wider community on a range of matters relating to the future use of the property. This could include the name.

What will happen to the existing DOC site?

The existing site is largely owned by a private landlord and leased by DOC. Once the restoration of Seddon House is complete, this lease will end and DOC will no longer use the site.