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Historic Vice Regal residence preserved for future

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister of New Zealand

22 May 2008 Media Statement

Historic Vice Regal residence preserved for future

New Zealand’s most historic and constitutionally important residence is to be renovated and conserved for future generations, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today.

“Government House in Wellington has housed nineteen Governors or Governors-General. It contains important art works and other treasures and taonga related to New Zealand’s history and culture. It has also served as a temporary residence for members of the Royal Family, during official state visits. Yet it has historically had very little investment in its upkeep. It now requires significant refurbishment to make it fit for purpose in the 21st Century,” Helen Clark said.

“Budget 2008 provides funding for the renovation and conservation of this important building. Construction will start in December this year and the total project is expected to cost $46.6 million in capital and $800,000 operating funding over four years,” Helen Clark said.

“Government House hosts many New Zealanders at more than 500 events each year, ranging in size from small gatherings to large ceremonial events. Each year more than 10,000 people visit Government House.

“After almost a century of use, the House is in need of considerable conservation work for the next phase of its life. The Government has decided to undertake a thorough conservation and refurbishment of the building and its grounds rather than continue to patch it up. As anyone who has refurbished a First World War era villa knows only too well, such a project is complex. If walls are opened up for strengthening work, then it makes sense to replace the wiring and plumbing at the same time.

“Rather than continuing to patch up the 98-year-old residence it’s now time for a major conservation effort. Government House is a nationally significant heritage building and Cabinet is in no doubt that, despite the significant capital costs, it’s essential that it be preserved and enhanced to support the work of a 21st Century Governor-General”, Helen Clark said.

BACKGROUND

The decision to undertake an extensive renovation project followed a detailed two-year investigation into the condition and use of the residence. This investigation established what was needed to bring the residence up to modern standards, which renovations could be done within accepted heritage processes, and also a number of functional improvements which would support the modern-day needs of the Governor-General.

The conservation and renovation work planned over the next four years will include:

• Earthquake strengthening
• Upgrading fire protection
• Replacing a number of services which are at the end of their life, such as water, wastewater, stormwater drains, power and communications and roading
• Replacing inefficient heating and lighting, and introducing elements of environmentally sustainable design including solar water heating, insulation, rainwater collection, low energy use appliances and installation of a building management system
• A new roof
• New ramps and lifts to enhance disabled access.

Since Lord Islington took up residence in 1910, the role of the Governor-General has changed significantly. Some aspects of the original building layout no longer meet the needs of a modern Governor-General. A number of changes in internal design and the operation of the House (while preserving heritage values) will improve privacy for Their Excellencies and ensure that Government House Wellington is fit for purpose as a fully serviced residence, an office and a venue for formal events.

Government House, Wellington, is listed as a Category 1 Heritage Building under the Wellington City Council District Plan. A specialist Heritage Advisory Team has been commissioned to prepare a conservation plan for the project. The team assessed the heritage value of the house and grounds and rated each space for historical, physical and authenticity values. The conservation plan will govern the renovation project.

When Government House, Wellington closes late this year and the conservation project begins, it has been agreed that Vogel House, in Lower Hutt would be an appropriate alternative Wellington residence for Their Excellencies. They are expected to take up residence there after the election. The House will provide the venue for many of the functions hosted by the Governor-General.

Information on Government House can be found here: www.gg.govt.nz/house/


ENDS

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