The Premier House is the official residence of the prime minister of New Zealand, and it is located in Thorndon in Wellington, the country’s capital city. The house was initially a private residence, and it was purchased by the government to be utilized as the official residence of the prime minister when the government shifted to Wellington in 1865. The building was significantly expanded during the initial years, although it was shunned by most leaders as the building deteriorated because it was constructed using mainly wood. It was leased out to private individuals for some six years during the late 1890s. The government took over the building as the residence of the prime minister until the Great Depression in the 1930s. For more than 50 years the building served as a dental clinic until 1990 when it was renovated a fresh and finally commissioned as Premier House.
The original building was constructed when New Zealand was still a colony in 1843 for George Hunter who was the first mayor of Wellington. Part of the original building still lies on the southern end of the current building. Over the years the building was expanded. It later became the residence of Nathaniel Levin, who was a famous merchant and a politician in New Zealand. In 1865, Richard Collins sold the house to the government, and it was made the official residence of the country’s Prime Minister.
No significant changes were made to the house sir Julius Vogel, who was the 8th prime minister in New Zealand, moved into the house in 1873 with his wife, Mary. He made several changes to the house and converted it into a mansion having eight bedrooms with a ballroom and a conservatory. In the compound, there was a tennis court which is believed to be New Zealand’s first tennis court. The Vogel family was famous for their lavish entertainment, and the mansion was nicknamed the casino. After the Vogels left the residence, the government wanted to sell the property, and it remained vacant until 1893. Between 1896 and 1900 the residence was leased out.
For several years the building was used by different institutions of the government until it was left without use for some time. In the 1980s, the building was already in bad shape, and the minister of internal affairs, Michael Bassett initiated the move to rescue the house from deteriorating further. The restoration of the building was carried out by LT McGuinness of Auckland, who won the tender to renovate the house out of other 21 applicants. Renovations began in 1989, and all the internal walls and all the rooms including the passages were retained in their original position. Extensive slumping had taken place over the years, and the building had to be leveled again and brought into shape. The walls were stripped, realigned, and straightened. The building was fitted with the new hydraulic lift among other facilities. Since 1990, the premier house once again became the official residence of the prime minister of New Zealand.
Prime Minister Bill English
Bill English was the country’s 39th, prime minister from 2016 to 2017, and he did not live in the premier house. The laws in New Zealand prohibit MPs from Wellington from claiming taxpayer-funded accommodation within the capital city. However, Jacinda Adern from Auckland who succeeded him lived in the premier house.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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