Otaki Children's Health Camp Rotunda

Tasman Road, Otaki

  • Otaki Children's Health Camp Rotunda.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Jolene Molloy.
  • .
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Jolene Molloy.
  • 'Boys' dormitory, Otaki Health Camp', 1945. Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image. Ref no. 1/4-001207.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library. Taken By: John Pascoe (1908-1972).

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4098 Date Entered 25th September 1986


City/District Council

Kapiti Coast District


Wellington Region


The Otaki Children's Health Camp Rotunda, initially built as part of a convalescent hospital in Rotorua during World War I, is now the last remaining original structure of New Zealand's first permanent children's health camp. Towards the end of 1915, the New Zealand Health Department became concerned that there would not be enough hospital accommodation to cope with the increasing number of sick and wounded soldiers returning from the Western Front. Since the Public Works Department was fully occupied with the construction of the military camps at Trentham and Featherston, the architectural firm of Hoggard and Prouse was commissioned to design a new military hospital at Rotorua. The new facility was constructed within six weeks by the Wellington firm of Campbell and Burke, and opened as the King George V Hospital in January 1916.

The hospital was designed in the shape of a cross, and built of timber with an iron roof and concrete foundations. A long corridor containing rooms for officers separated two large octagonal dormitories (named Anzac and Sula Wards). North of the main corridor was the large dining hall, and to the south were the kitchen, waiting room and administration areas. The use of the octagonal shape with a lantern roof, and open windows covered only by hessian, maximised the sunlight and air considered at the time to be essential for recuperating patients. This hospital design was also utilised at Featherston and possibly Trentham military camps.

After the First World War the King George V Hospital was handed over to civilian authorities, and during the 1920s civilian patients were also taken in by the hospital. By the end of the decade the wards were in need of repair and it was decided to demolish the hospital. The two octagonal dormitories were dismantled and sent to Otaki to become part of New Zealand's first permanent children's health camp.

The first health camps had begun in New Zealand in 1919 as a response to concerns for the health and welfare of the country's children. Initially camps were held at temporary facilities with children being housed under canvas; the idea being that children considered to be undernourished and 'delicate' would benefit from good food, fresh air, and exercise. In 1929, under the leadership of Dr. Ada Patterson, Director of the Health Department's School Hygiene Division (1923-1937), it was decided to build a permanent health camp in the Wellington area. Land at Otaki for the new camp was provided by businessman and philanthropist Byron Brown. Funding for the construction of the camp required considerable lobbying by Patterson, boosted by the Cabinet agreeing to apply the funds from the first health stamp sales to the new camp. In 1931 the Cabinet also approved the transfer of the two rotunda from King George V Hospital to Otaki. They were dismantled and transported by rail to their new location, where they were re-erected by the Lower Hutt firm of S. Jarvis and Son. The camp opened as the Raukawa Camp in 1932 and it provided for 50 to 80 primary-school aged children per six-week intake, mainly from the lower half of the North Island.

During World War II the Wellington Health Board temporarily commandeered the Otaki camp and the rotunda were again utilised as hospital wards, mainly for geriatric and orthopaedic patients. The health camp reopened in December 1944. The rotunda continued to provide accommodation for children until 1963. That year the camp was closed for reconstruction, during which time the eastern rotunda was demolished to make way for a new administration block and accommodation facilities. The remaining rotunda was converted into a recreational building, and continues in this role today. The Otaki Children's Health Camp is now run under the auspices of the New Zealand Foundation for Child and Family Health Development.

The Otaki Health Camp Rotunda is of outstanding national significance. For over 85 years the rotunda has served as a health facility; first as a military hospital and later a civilian hospital at Rotorua, and then, for the last 70 years, primarily as part of New Zealand's first permanent children's health camp. It has high technological interest as its design reflects the attitudes of the day towards the treatment of the sick. It is one of only two First World War hospital buildings of this design remaining in New Zealand. The rotunda is also important for its association with nationally important figures such as Dr Ada Paterson, and locally important figures such as the Kapiti philanthropist, Byron Brown.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1915 - 1916

1931 -
Moved from Rotorua to Otaki

1963 -
One of two rotundas removed from site [eastern side] of remain rotunda building, remaining rotunda converted into recreational facility. Relocated rotunda moved to farm and has been demolished.

Demolished - additional building on site
Second rotunda has been sold and relocated off site. Building was not re-erected in same form. Noted by Di Buchanan as 'demolished' 2019.

Completion Date

4th December 2001

Report Written By


Information Sources

Otaki Historical Society Journal

Otaki Historical Society Journal

B.V. Swaby, 'Otaki Children's Health Camp', Vol. 11, 1988; Margaret Tennant, 'The children of Otaki Health Camp, a view of the Early years', vol. 14, 1991.

Stafford, 1988

D. M. Stafford, The new century in Rotorua, a history of events from 1900, Rotorua, 1988

Tennant, 1994

Margaret Tennant, Children's Health, the Nation's Wealth - A history of children's health camps, Wellington, 1994

Conservation Plan

Conservation Plan

Ian Bowman, 'A Conservation Plan for the Rotunda', May 1997, copy held NZHPT, Wellington

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.