Calling Old Government Buildings home for 25 years

The Faculty of Law moved into Old Government Buildings 25 years ago and has been calling it home ever since.

Earlier this month, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Law celebrated 25 years in Old Government Buildings (OGB), one of New Zealand’s largest and grandest wooden buildings.

Watch some of the highlights captured during the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Faculty of Law calling Old Government Buildings home.

The 1996 move to OGB, in the nation’s legal and political heart, was significant for the University as this was the second Faculty to move from the Kelburn campus and into Wellington city.

The Faculty marked the anniversary with a celebratory event, which was attended by the Governor-General the Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy—one of the Law School’s most notable alumna—as well as other members of the alumni community, academic and professional staff, senior leaders from the University, and students.

Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Law Professor Mark Hickford says it was a momentous occasion which provided an opportunity to reconnect and celebrate the rich and varied history of the Faculty, and its many successes.

“It is not every day we can gather to celebrate such milestones, particularly in the current global environment with the pandemic still causing disruptions world-wide.

“We are lucky to be in a country where we can come together to celebrate, converse and reunite as alumni and notable members of our community in person.”

The Faculty also launched Tātai Ture, a project which recognises the rich heritage of the Law School and the support of our alumni and community.

Professor Hickford says that Tātai Ture aims to tell the story of the Law School and its people, connecting the past, present and future generations of law students.

“Tātai Ture is both a reminder of our inheritances and our relatedness, and a point of departure from which to imagine new ways of thinking and being.”

About Old Government Buildings (OGB)

Old Government Buildings, the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, was designed in the classically derived Italian Renaissance revival style. Like many colonial buildings of the era, it was built to resemble a stone palace. This was to convey strength and stability in a young country undergoing rapid growth and change.

To avoid being seen as extravagant, the new government chose to build in timber including extensive use of kauri, and it remains probably the world's largest timber office building. As a result, it became one of New Zealand’s first smoke-free buildings.

It was completed in 1876—an important turning point in New Zealand’s political history. That year saw the provincial governments abolished and a central government established. For 56 years, the building was the home of Ministers’ offices, the Cabinet room and all Wellington-based civil servants.

It features include two staircases, eight vaults, 143 rooms, 126 fireplaces, 22 chimneys, two hydraulic lifts, eight verandas and seven porticos.

Government ministers used the building during Parliament's recess until 1921. The Executive Council met in the building until 1948. Before long, the public service had rapidly expanded beyond the building's capacity. By 1990, the last of the public service departments had moved out, concluding 114 years of government service.

Limited restoration began in the early 1980s but by 1990 the building was empty. The government decided to restore the building and work began in 1994 under the management of the Department of Conservation. The work cost $25 million and was completed early in 1996. It is regarded as a landmark in government-initiated heritage conservation.

Old Government Buildings, now managed by Pouhere Taonga Heritage New Zealand, is open to the public, with displays on the ground floor and the Cabinet room on the first floor accessible for visitors to explore. The grounds feature examples of New Zealand's flora, including many rare species.