Topic: The Old Post Office, Tauranga

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The first building on this site was a large wooden structure with vertical boards erected in the early 1860s by the Church Missionary Society. It was intended for use as an agricultural training institute for Maori from throughout the Bay of Plenty. The project was abandoned when the land wars broke out. In 1864 the building was taken over by the imperial troops, at first for use as a commissary, and then after the battles of Gate Pa and Te Ranga, as a hospital. It was used to house all the government offices until it was demolished in 1874. Story by Jinty Rorke.

Looking strange? see an archived version here

The next building was also made of wood.  In fact it was said to be the second largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere.  (The largest was Parliament Building in Wellington.)  It was the seat of all power in Tauranga, containing central government, Tauranga County and Tauranga Borough council offices.  But tragedy struck.  As dawn broke on 17 November 1902 residents were greeted by a scene of devastation. Brick chimney stacks stood in splendid isolation amidst piles of reeking debris.  Not only had the building been destroyed, but all the written government records had literally gone up in smoke. 

Many requests that rebuilding should take place went to Wellington over the next three years.  Only after a visit by Premier Richard Seddon did work commence.  But it was worth the wait.  The third building on this site, designed by government architect John Campbell, is more modest in size but is impressive because of its flamboyant Imperial baroque style.  For many years Taurangaites visited this elegant building on Willow Street to post a letter, mail a parcel, send a telegram – and even to appear in Court before the Resident Magistrate.  The post and telegraph offices occupied the lower floor and the spacious courtroom on the first floor provided splendid views over the harbour.

Willow Street 1910
The Post Office on Willow Street c.1910

The post office moved out in December 1938, and gradually other government offices found new premises. A new high rise government building opened in 1980 on land adjacent to the Old Post Office site.  Public feelings ran high in 1987 when it seemed almost certain that the building would be demolished.  Tauranga District Council saved the day by purchasing the building in 1990.  It was then onsold to Grasshopper Properties with strict conditions relating to the re-use and reconstruction of the building.  A wonderful restoration project was completed in the late 1990s, with the interior redesigned to accommodate four suites of offices. 

A display room on the ground floor which houses exhibits relating to the history of the post office is open to the public during office hours.

Old Post Office
 The Old Post Office building after the 1990s restoration

 Further information is available through the Tauranga City Libraries’ New Zealand Room
This page was archived at Perma cc January 2017

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The Old Post Office, Tauranga

Year:1987, 1990, c.1860, 1864, 1874, 1902, and 1938
City:Tauranga, New Zealand