Waihi Courthouse

61 Kenny Street And Haszard Street, Waihi

  • Waihi Courthouse. CC Licence 3.0 Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
    Copyright: Ulrich Lange - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Ulrich Lange, Bochum, Germany. Date: 29/01/2017.
  • Waihi Courthouse.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Matt Felgate. Date: 16/03/2009.
  • Waihi Courthouse.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Matt Felgate. Date: 16/03/2009.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4685 Date Entered 13th December 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Secs 1‐2 SO 58615 (CTs SA48B/897, SA51C/75), South Auckland Land District, and the building and structures known as Waihi Courthouse thereon.

City/District Council

Hauraki District


Waikato Region

Legal description

Secs 1‐2 SO 58615 (CTs SA48B/897, SA51C/75), South Auckland Land District



Waihi had sprung up in the early 'eighties' following the discovery of the Martha Gold Reef in 1878. Until the late 1890s, however, Waihi was little different from other shanty towns. The advent of the cyanide process of gold extraction in 1893 and the establishment of the British Waihi Gold Mining Company brought permanence and prosperity to Waihi. The erection of the courthouse in 1901 was a further indication of this permanence.

Mining matters such as miners' rights and licences were also administered by the Warden's Court from the building. Additions to the courthouse were needed in 1906 to accommodate the Inspector of Mines, Waihi.

During the Waihi Strike of 1912 the Waihi Magistrate's Court came to the nation's attention when prosecutions were brought against 82 striking miners. The strike which commenced in May and lasted for six months was particularly acrimonious. Waihi ultimately became the scene of confrontation between Massey's newly-elected Reform Government and the Federation of Labour. Several members of the "Red Feds" who became involved in the issue of the Waihi Strike were later to achieve prominence as members of the Labour Government elected in 1935.

Although used less intensively than in the days of Waihi's mining boom, the building remains a District Court serving the largely rural community which subsequently grew up around Waihi.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Courthouse was a public building of considerable significance to the permanent township developing at Waihi at the turn of the century. The role of the warden's court in the administration of mining matters reinforced the building's importance in a town, the fortunes of which were closely associated with those of the country's largest gold mine. The courthouse was the venue of the trials following the Waihi Miners' Strike of 1912, an event of major significance in New Zealand labour history.


Waihi Courthouse is one of the finest extant examples of the wooden public buildings constructed under the direction of John Campbell as Government Architect. The design, which conforms to fairly well defined standards, was once common in New Zealand.

An attractive, domestic-scale building sited on a generous, picturesque section it has recently been restored with care and attention. The interior remains largely in original appearance and condition and the courtroom is a fine example of a turn-of-the-century public space.


The courthouse is enhanced by its picket fence and garden setting but it does not have significant townscape presence.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Campbell, John

John Campbell (1857-1942) served his articles under John Gordon (c1835-1912) in Glasgow. He arrived in Dunedin in 1882 and after a brief period as a draughtsman with Mason and Wales joined the Dunedin branch of the Public Works Department in 1883. His first known work, an unbuilt design for the Dunedin Railway Station, reveals an early interest in Baroque architecture.

In November 1888 Campbell was transferred to Wellington where in 1889 he took up the position of draughtsman in charge of the Public Buildings Division of the Public Works Department.

He remained in charge of the design of government buildings throughout New Zealand until his retirement in 1922, becoming in 1909 the first person to hold the position of Government Architect. Government architecture designed under his aegis evidences a change in style from Queen Anne to Edwardian Baroque. His best-known Queen Anne design is the Dunedin Police Station (1895-8), modelled on Richard Norman Shaw's New Scotland Yard (1887-90). Among his most exuberant Edwardian Baroque buildings is the Public Trust Office, Wellington (1905-09). Although Campbell designed the Dunedin Law Courts (1899-1902) in the Gothic style with a Scottish Baronial inflection, he established Edwardian Baroque as the government style for police stations, courthouses and post offices throughout New Zealand. In 1911 Campbell won the nation-wide architectural competition for the design of Parliament Buildings, Wellington. Although only partially completed, Parliament House is the crowning achievement of Campbell's career.

Vickerman, Charles

Charles Ranken Vickerman, District Engineer of the Public Works Department.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


Waihi Courthouse is a single-storey wooden public building with a domestic scale and style. Originally symmetrical about the gabled entrance it has a compatibly designed wing to the east (1906). The building is distinguished by its decoration and attention to detail.

Apart from the entrance gable the building has a hipped-roof with eave brackets and is clad with rusticated weatherboards. The main entrance is through panelled double doors flanked by slender sash windows. On each side are paired sash windows. The gable is faced with decorative timber battens and capped with a finial and cut-timber ornamentation. The main body of the building and the extension have single and paired sash windows. All windows have multi-paned upper lights, bracketed hoods, timber aprons and scriber boards.

The principal feature of the interior is the courtroom, located on the south side of the main block. It has a panelled coved ceiling, tongue-and-groove dado panelling and elegant doors, architraves and courtroom joinery, all in rimu. The foyer, judges rooms and office in the east wing are all similarly finished but the remainder of the building spaces have little or no applied decoration.


1906 - East wing added

1983 - Porch extended and converted into a waiting room

- Witness room converted to public toilet

- Judge's chamber extended and rooms added to rear of building

- Part of east wing opened into general office, and wing extended

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1901 -

1906 -
East Wing addition completed.

1983 -
Porch extended and converted into a waiting room. Witness room converted to public toilet. Judge's chamber extended and rooms added to rear of building. Part of east wing opened into general office, and wing extended.

1906 -
Tenders for addition to the east wing called for by CR Vickerman on 11 Jan 1906.

Construction Details

Concrete footings and foundation wall; timber framing with rusticated kauri weatherboards; long run corrugated steel roofing.

Information Sources

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives (AJHR)

Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives

D1 - 1900; 1902; 1906-1907.

C2 - 1912-1923

Auckland Weekly News

Auckland Weekly News

1 March 1901, p33(5), 21 June 1901, p31(4), 29 August 1901, p8, Photographic Supplement

McAra, 1988

J B McAra, Gold Mining at Waihi 1878-1952, Waihi, 1988

Climie, 1962

N S Climie, (ed) Waihi Borough Council: Diamond Jubilee, 1902-1962, Paeroa, 1962

Olssen, 1988

E Olssen. The Red Feds : Revolutionary Industrial Unionism of the NZ Federation of Labour 1908-1913, Auckland, 1988

Roche, 1982

S Roche, The Red and the Gold : An Informal Account of the Waihi Strike 1912, Auckland, 1982

Waihi Art Centre & Museum

Waihi Art Centre & Museum

Photographs: Neg C34 135y

Waihi Daily Telegraph

Waihi Daily Telegraph

Volume V, Issue 1528, 11 January 1906, Page 1

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

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.