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Read our timeline of events.

1872    Following a conversation between the Hon. E.C.J. Stevens and Sir Julius Vogel, the first bill providing for a Public Trust Office is introduced by Vogel. The idea is for the state to back an institution which can provide a trustee who is permanent, solvent, and qualified to act, an uncommon combination in the early years of settlement in New Zealand.

1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ entry about the Public Trust Office

1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ entry about Edwards C. J. Stephens

1966 Encyclopaedia of NZ entry about Sir Julius Vogel

1872    A redrafted Public Trust Bill proposed by Vogel becomes law.

1873    The Public Trust Office is established. The first state-backed institution of its type in the world, it, becomes the model for similar systems in England, Canada, Australia and Fiji.  

1876    A start is made on reclaiming the the Thorndon shoreline, where the Public Trust Office Building will eventually be built.

1894    Government architect John Campbell is approached to prepare plans for the Public Trust Office Building. Concerns are raised over its proposed location – alongside Government Buildings.

Te Ara biography on John Campbell

1899    The annual Appropriation Act includes authority for the erection of a building and the provision of office accommodation for the Public Trust Office, the cost being met by the Office from accumulated profits.

1904    Reid Brothers of San Francisco is commissioned to prepare plans for a building on the Lambton Quay site on which the Public Trust Office Building will eventually sit.

1905    John Campbell prepares plans dated October 1905 for the Public Trust Office.

1906    Following the devastating San Francisco earthquake, John Campbell redraws his plans to incorporate a steel frame. The successful tender for construction is submitted by J. and A. Wilson – £40,780 (more than $6.5 million in 2015).

Cyclopedia of NZ entry about the Wilson Bros

1907    Building work begins on the Public Trust Office.

1909    On Wednesday 9 June, the Public Trust Office Building is officially opened by Prime Minister Sir Joseph Ward.

Te Ara biography on Sir Joseph Ward

1911    The building is illuminated and decorated for the coronation of King George V.

1917    The Public Trust renovates the building to designs by Crichton and McKay, installing a lift, emergency stairs and a luncheon room for the female staff at a cost of £9678 ($1.2 million).

1919    Robert Triggs, the Public Trustee, requests authority to buy additional buildings in Stout and Ballance streets to accommodate his growing staff.

1922    Further renovations to the building are undertaken.

1923    An earthquake cracks plaster in the building.

1926    In May an immense beam above the Legal Branch’s work area falls down – probably as a result of damage during the 1923 earthquake. Fortunately this happened at the weekend and no staff were injured.[1]

[1] Press, 12 May 1926, p. 6

1926    More vaults are added to the building; these are designed ‘to stand intact if the whole building collapsed’.

1927    The beams above the Legal Branch and the concrete floors are strengthened, with ‘light angled furring’ added to the steel around the girders.

1932       On 11 May the Public Trust Office Building is one of many in Wellington attacked by an angry mob of unemployed workers.[2] Two windows are smashed and a chisel is hurled into the building. Staff close and lock the vaults in case of invasion, but the mob moves on without further incident.

[2] Evening Post, 11 May 1932, p. 9; Press, 11 May 1932, p. 12

The Public Trustee has a great deal of difficulty finding suitable replacement windows.

1942    Major damage is caused in Wellington by two large earthquakes centred in Wairarapa. Amazingly, the Public Trust Office Building suffers only minor plaster cracks.

Te Ara entry about historic earthquakes

1944    The flat roof at the rear of the building is reroofed.

1945    Vaults in the building are repaired.

1953    The building is decorated for the royal visit. A cement render applied to areas of the Tonga Bay granite is later found to have degraded the granite.

1980    The Public Trustee (with the concurrence of the Minister, Hon. Derek Quigley) sells the building, with provision for the Office to continue in occupation until its new building, under construction on an adjoining site, is completed.

1982    The Public Trust moves out of the building and into its new premises next door. This leaves the Public Trust Office Building empty and with an uncertain future. Calls to demolish the building meet with a public outcry. The Minister of Internal Affairs issues a protection notice for the building.

1982    A heritage order is placed on the building by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand).

Heritage Order

1983    Riddiford Holdings purchases the building and undertakes major re-strengthening and minor refurbishment, using engineering firm Smith Leuchars and consulting architect Keith Wilson. The work includes the addition of a garage door and ramp to the basement for car parking, and the separation of the building into tenancies. This work costs approximately $3 million.

1985    On 2 June, the Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council (now known as Creative New Zealand, Arts Council of New Zealand) leases levels 2, 3 and 4 of the Public Trust Building.

Alexander Associates purchases the building.

1990    The Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council purchases levels 2, 3 and 4 of the building from Alexander Associates.

1991    The Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council takes up a tenancy on the ground floor of the building.        

1994    A mezzanine floor is added.

2003    Wellington barrister Stephen Kós QC purchases the first floor of the building, with the intention of establishing barristers' chambers there.

2006    Extensive renovations designed by Philip Porritt of Jasmax are carried out for the barristers’ chambers.

2007    A new set of barristers' chambers, Stout Street Chambers, opens on the first floor. Members include Stephen Kós QC, Mary Scholtens QC, Justin Smith and Les Taylor.

2009   The building is now owned by a body corporate comprising Creative New Zealand: The Arts Council of New Zealand (Levels 2, 3 and 4, part of the ground floor (tenancy 3) and 10 basement car parks); Stout Street Estates Ltd (Level 1 and four basement car parks); Julian Parsons (part of the ground floor (tenancy 1) and one basement car park); Muturangi Trust (part of the ground floor (tenancy 2) and one basement car park. It is occupied by the Arts Council; Stout Street Chambers; Cahill Solicitors; Shannons electrolysis and Beauty.

2013   At 5.09 p.m. on Sunday 21 July a magnitude 6.5 earthquake centred in Cook Strait, about 20 kilometres east of Seddon in Marlborough, strikes Wellington city. Goods fall from supermarket shelves and plate glass and masonry fall from downtown buildings. Seismic activity continues and there is a 6.6 magnitude quake at 2.31 p.m. on Friday 16 August. Centred 10 kilometres south-east of Seddon, close to Lake Grassmere, this causes significant damage to buildings in Seddon and nearby towns. It is felt strongly in Wellington and much of central New Zealand. Following advice from structural engineers Dunning Thornton, the building is closed.

Te Ara entry on the 2013 earthquake

2014    The building is purchased by Cheops Holdings Ltd (Maurice Clark).

Creative New Zealand media release on the sale of the building

2014    Strengthening and refurbishment begins.

2015    On 27 October the building is reopened by the former Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon. Maggie Barry. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage occupies Levels 1 to 4.

2016   The Public Trust building wins two awards for 'Heritage' and 'Interior Architecture' in the New Zealand Institute of Architecture Wellington 2016 Awards.

2019  The Ground Floor Public Trust Hall was opened by Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern after 11 months of renovation. 

New function venue opening in historic CBD building

Updated on 26th August 2020