Public Trust Office (Former)

69 Bank Street, Whangarei

  • Public Trust Office (Former), Whangarei. CC Licence 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange, Bochum, Germany - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange. Date: 8/01/2017.
  • Public Trust Office (Former), Whangarei. CC Licence 3.0 Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange, Bochum, Germany - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange. Date: 8/01/2017.
  • Public Trust Office (Former), Whangarei. Building detail.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Stuart Park. Date: 1/03/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 479 Date Entered 23rd June 1983


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Pt Allot 1, Parish of Whangarei, Lot 3 DP 16453, (CT NA373/85) North Auckland Land District and the building known as the Former Public Trust Office thereon.

City/District Council

Whangarei District


Northland Region

Legal description

Pt Allot 1, Parish of Whangarei, Lot 3 DP 16453, (CT NA373/85) North Auckland Land District


The Public Trust Office (Former) is situated on Bank Street, Whangarei, where the district court, public and finance buildings of Whangarei are situated. The Public Trust was established in 1872 by central government to prevent the misappropriation of trust funds upon a person's death. It gained a number of duties surrounding the administration of the estates of deceased persons, particularly those who died intestate, as well as a range of other powers. It established a network of agencies throughout the country and constructed buildings to house its offices. The building is architecturally significant as a very good example of the style; of the work of an important architect of the period, and for its contribution to the townscape quality of Whangarei.

The current Town area and inland to Kamo, Ketenikau and Parihaki, was the territory of the Ngati Kahu People. Tipene had his village at Pihoi on the high land above the present Town Basin and extending along the north side of the harbour. In colonial times the wider location was the site of meetings between rangatira and missionaries and the place where the first chapel was built in the Whangarei area. In 1839, the missionary printer William Colenso and the then British Resident at the Bay of Islands, James Busby, visited the Whangarei area. Colenso paid five visits to Whangarei and in April 1840, a timber chapel was built by Maori at Pihoi that Colenso identifies as Abraham, Steven and the chiefs. Pihoi location is 300 metres north of the Public Trust Building (Former).

William Carruth, a Scots settler, purchased just over 390 hectares from Ngati Kahu in 1839, encompassing much of the future commercial area of Whangarei. European settlers named what is currently Bank Street ‘Scoria Hill’ because of the volcanic nature of the ridge. Carruth sold a portion of the holding to John George Petingale and Edward Dent and family in 1846. In 1855, Edward Dent bought land from Pertingale and established a store at the intersection of present day Cameron and Bank Streets. A road ran up Scoria Hill to what is now Bank Street.

The plans for the building on Bank Street were finalised in 1925 and the transfer of land and depositing of plans took place in August of that year. The architect who designed the building was the Wellington based Stanley W. Fearn. He had designed other buildings for the Public Trust including the Hastings Public Trust (Former) (List No. 1101), the Hawera Public Trust and the William Booth Memorial Training College Wellington for which he won a Gold Medal in the 1927 New Zealand Institute of Architects Awards. The Public Trust Building (Former), Whangarei, is of stripped Classical design, a carefully articulated design that makes use of columns, pilasters, cornices and other Classical motifs to provide an ordered and functional building. The building is a four story building that was designed with the public space and strong room on the ground floor, the rest of the building was used as office space. The building is constructed of masonry that has been plastered to achieve the decoration associated with its classical design.

There were alterations and painting to the rear of the building in 1937 and 1938. The townscape of Whangarei has altered and the centre of banking and finance has moved away from the Bank Street area to a more central location. The building is no longer associated with the Public Trust and is now re used as a café and professional offices. The building is in good condition and is an integral part of Bank Street and the wider built heritage of the town.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fearn, Stanley

Stanley Fearn was a contemporary of Gary Young and at one time was in partnership with Gary Young and Austin Quick. Fearn's work is distinguished for his houses in the English Vernacular style.

Stanley W. Fearn (1887-1976) was a British-born, Wellington based architect who had a long career spanning a large part of the 20th century and incorporating a wide range of styles. He was still working as late as the 1960s. Most of his work was domestic but he designed a range of buildings, both in the capital, where he designed over 70 buildings, and further afield. In Wellington he is best known for the William Booth Memorial Training College in Aro Street (1913), which he designed with Austen Quick. This building won the first ever gold medal of the NZ Institute of Architects in 1927. His other Wellington buildings included Cambridge Pharmacy (1932) and the Dominion Arcade (1959).

Among his houses was the Frederic Wallis House, Lower Hutt (1927), the grand country house Rototawai, near Featherston (1929), as well as houses in Hobson Street, Thorndon. He was involved in the rebuilding of Napier and Hastings after the Hawkes Bay earthquake and among his surviving designs is the former Bestall's Building, Napier (1932). His son Detmar was also an architect.

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

1937 -
Alterations to rear of building

Completion Date

27th May 2015

Report Written By

Bill Edwards

Information Sources

Pickmere, 1986

Nancy Pickmere, Whangarei: The Founding Years, Whangarei, 1986

Daamen, R., et al

Daamen, Rose, Paul Hamer and Barry Rigby, ‘Rangahaua Whanui District 1: Auckland.

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Northland Area Office of Heritage New Zealand