Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former)

155-157 Waterloo Road, Lower Hutt

  • Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 1/06/2007.
  • Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former). Fire Tower, smoke room and workshop to the rear of fire station.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 1/06/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9319 Date Entered 30th April 2010


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 82046 (CT WN48D/181), Wellington Land District, the buildings known as the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former), including the fire tower, smoke room and workshop, and their fittings and fixtures, (Refer to map in Appendix 1 of the registration report for further information).

City/District Council

Hutt City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 82046 (CT WN48D/181), Wellington Land District.


Completed in 1955, the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former) is a representative example of Post-War Modernist design and construction in reinforced concrete. Commissioned by the Lower Hutt Fire Board, it opened in time to mark the 50th Jubilee of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade and started an important chapter in the fire fighting services for Lower Hutt. At its completion the fire station was one of the most modern in the Southern Hemisphere and a tribute to the planning and design of Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners in association with King, Cook and Dawson.

Situated on the busy Waterloo Road the fire station, its training buildings and associated residential units, are located in a residential area. Local resistance to its construction on the site saw the Lower Hutt Fire Board direct the architects that the buildings not detract from the residential feel of the place. The architects were successful in their brief with a design that captures the essence of Frank Lloyd Wright with symmetry, rhythm and elongated forms; a Modernist aesthetic of smooth surfaces and curves, and a bulk that is tempered by hipped gabled rooflines that link to the designs for the residential blocks that are located to the north and west of the building.

The building represents an important phase in international architectural influences that were being interpreted at a local and domestic level. The Modernist design was used for a number of municipal buildings that were constructed in Lower Hutt City during the 1950s which saw the city become a flagship of Post-War Modernism. The designs represented progress and modernity for a new city that was home to a burgeoning population fuelled by massive state housing projects and a growth in industry.

Modern fire fighting services had to keep pace with this growth and provide fire cover to a large area. A large centralised station and site allowed for training and education with up-to-date technology and equipment, and the ability to house four fire appliances. The provision of residential units for married firemen and their families and accommodation for single men inside the station created a spirit of community and camaraderie for the brigade. It also heralded a move to a dedicated professional municipal fire brigade that could provide a more effective and efficient response to protect life and property.

The purpose built fire station and its association with the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade provides for a place of public esteem and civic pride. The building was the focus of fire fighting life for firemen and their families who lived, worked, recreated and celebrated there. At its opening in 1955 the fire station drew wide public interest and support and remained a focal point for interaction between fire fighters and the community they served. Restructuring of the fire districts and the service, continuing population dispersal and movement of industry saw a decision to decentralise. Three new fire stations were built in surrounding suburbs and the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station, which had served the community for over 50 years, was no longer required for fire fighting purposes and closed in January 2007. The land is currently held by the Commissioner for Crown Lands for Treaty Settlement purposes.

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is of outstanding architectural value as an authentic and intact example of Post-War Modern architecture in a city that was a 'flagship' for Post-War Modernism. This former municipal structure is located in a central position and makes a special contribution to the wider historical and cultural landscape of Lower Hutt which includes the Lower Hutt Civic Centre Historic Area. The building was considered to be the most modern fire station in the Southern Hemisphere and has significant value for its technological innovations and design that is informative of its use but sympathetic to its residential setting.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station has historical significance as a purpose built fire station that accommodated this use for over 50 years. Its centrality and scale reflected the burgeoning Lower Hutt area that received city status in 1941 and the needs of the community to have a responsive permanent fire brigade.

The historical progression of the fire brigade from volunteers to a permanent professional body is reflected in the size and scale of the fire station and its surrounding residential units for married firemen and their families. The residential blocks are now privately owned but remain connected to the station by their appearance, location and history. Unmarried men were housed inside the station and a variety of spaces were created for recreation, education, training and offices for the senior staff members.

At its completion the Fire Station was heralded as the most modern fire station in the Southern Hemisphere. It incorporated a number of features that were in accordance with contemporary practice in fire station planning and equipment in the United Kingdom and a watch room that had the most up-to-date electronic equipment for a rapid response. Other important buildings that contributed to its 'modern' label were the smoke room for respirator training and the fire tower.

Aesthetic Significance or Value

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station (Former) has been an impressive building on the busy Waterloo Road for over 50 years. It has special visual appeal with its smooth curved forms and restrained decoration that is aesthetically pleasing. The building does not impose on the streetscape but displays a solidity and permanence that is comforting and congruent with its residential surroundings. The building adds to the diversity of the streetscape and the site provides a unique setting for this large municipal building.

Architectural Significance or Value

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station makes an important contribution to Post-War Modernism which was a dominant architectural style in the Hutt Valley in the 1950s and used by a number of architects for a number of municipal buildings including the Lower Hutt City Civic Centre. The design was a local interpretation of the International Style and Modernism which represented the ideals of change and progress through the use and versatility of new materials.

The architects Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners in association with King, Cook and Dawson used their experience of commercial and residential design to realise a building that would not detract from its residential setting.

The strong horizontal and vertical symmetry and rhythmically spaced windows that form the design are echoes of Frank Lloyd Wright residential designs that set a building into the landscape with long rooflines and volumes from a central core. The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is an interpretation of domestic forms, translated into a functioning municipal structure that provides a space for the appliances as well as a home and workplace for the fire fighters. It has special significance for its architectural design that blends the modernist concepts of form and function into a harmonious and beautiful structure.

Technological Significance or Value

The design of the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station incorporated a number of mechanisms designed for use in the operation of a modern fire station including door mechanisms for the poles, automatic engine switch on from the watchroom and an alert system to muster the firemen. Other associated buildings that provide important technological value for their design and use are the smoke room and tower which helped in the training of firemen.

Social Significance or Value

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station was an important municipal structure that held wide community support and public esteem. Its central position on a busy Lower Hutt street meant that it was a notable building that provided an interface between the public and fire fighting services. The building represents a profession that is highly regarded in the community and provides a focus for public esteem.

For the fireman and their families the building and its associated residential quarters has social significance for its fostering of a community spirit through the provision of spaces for recreation and gatherings.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station embodies the change that had happened in the history of fire fighting services in New Zealand that saw a shift from volunteer brigades to ones based on permanent staff and professionalism. The large centralised site allowed for the construction of a complex made up of a station, residential units and training buildings that could accommodate, train and educate firemen who were part of a professional municipal fire fighting force. The building represents this change and development in fire fighting services over time and even its closure is a result of this continuing change in the provision of fire cover.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for the place

For over 50 years a number of firemen and their families have lived, worked, recreated and celebrated at the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station. A focus of wide public interest and support at its opening in 1955, the fire station has remained a focal point for public esteem and interaction for fire fighters and the community that they serve. A purpose built fire station that was at the time of its completion, the most modern in the Southern Hemisphere it is a place of civic pride and an asset to the architectural heritage of Lower Hutt and New Zealand.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is a representative example of Post-War Modernism in a unique residential setting. Its functionality as a fire station is balanced by a design that is simple and elegant. The building makes an important contribution to the New Zealand interpretation of design ideas emerging from Northern Hemisphere architects, such as Frank Lloyd Wright.

The building holds value for a design that has endured since its construction over fifty years ago; it remains intact and displays integrity with only minor changes to joinery and internal modifications since its construction.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station forms part of an important grouping of municipal buildings that represent Post-War Modernism in New Zealand. The building is an intact and authentic example of this architectural style that dominated Lower Hutt City in the 1950s and forms a special part of a cultural landscape that professed the ideas of progress and modernity.

The design was headed by Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners in association with King, Cook and Dawson, who were responsible for a number of civic and commercial buildings in the Wellington and Hutt Valley region and around New Zealand. This building is an excellent and distinct example of their skills and talents to produce a building that fulfilled all the technical needs of a modern fire station within a residential setting.


It is considered that this place qualifies as a Category I historic place.

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is of outstanding architectural value as an authentic and intact example of Post-War Modern architecture in a city that was a 'flagship' for Post-War Modernism. This former municipal structure is located in a central position and makes a special contribution to the wider historical and cultural landscape of Lower Hutt which includes the Lower Hutt Civic Centre Historic Area. The building was considered to be the most modern fire station in the Southern Hemisphere and has significant value for its technological innova-tions and design that is informative of its use but sympathetic to its residential setting.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mitchell & Mitchell

The firm of Mitchell & Mitchell was established by the Mitchell brothers, Cyril Hawthorn Mitchell (d. 1949) and Alan Hawthorn Mitchell (d.1973). The brothers were two of a handful of prominent Wellington architects of the early twentieth century. C. H. Mitchell had qualified as an architect in 1913, forming the partnership with his younger brother when A. H. Mitchell returned from training in the United Kingdom in 1932. The Mitchell brothers designed many buildings throughout New Zealand, and both became fellows of the New Zealand Institute of Architects.

King, Cook and Dawson

A Wellington based architectural firm that formed in 1948. The principal partners were Jack Ian King, Joseph M. Dawson and W. Keith Cook. The firm was highly successful with a high number of commissions and the establishment of a number of new clients. Cook left the practice in 1957 and it went on as King and Dawson. ('Lower Hitt Central Fire Station', NZHPT Registration Report (Record no. 9319).

Cook, Weymouth Keith

Weymouth Keith Cook, ANZIA, ARIBA, (1905-1973)

Weymouth Keith Cook, known as Keith Cook, was born in Lower Hutt in 1905. Cook trained to be an architect at the newly established School of Architecture at Auckland University, entering in 1925 and graduating in 1929. He established his own practice in Wellington between 1930 and 1946 before joining in partnership with Jack Ian King (1900-1972). In 1948 J.M. Dawson joined the firm and King, Cook and Dawson was established. Under King, Cook and Dawson, Keith Cook was the project architect for a number of buildings in the Hutt Valley, most notably the Lower Hutt Town Hall and Administration Building, completed in 1957 and the Horticultural Hall which was designed in 1957 and completed in 1959. Cook left the firm in 1957 and re-established his own practice in Lower Hutt before retiring due to ill health in 1959. Cook died in Lower Hutt, 9 September 1973. ('Lower Hutt Central Fire Station', NZHPT Registration Report (Record no. 9319)).

Mitchell, Alan Hawthorn

Alan Hawthorn Mitchell, R.I.B.A., A.N.Z.I.A. (1906 - 1973)

Alan Hawthorn Mitchell, the brother of the architect C.H. Mitchell, began with the firm Atkins and Mitchell as a boy. He passed his New Zealand Exams with the New Zealand University and travelled to the University College London to study architecture. After completing his final examination thesis for R.I.B.A. A.H. Mitchell returned to New Zealand in early 1932 and commenced a junior partnership with his brother C.H. Mitchell to form Mitchell and Mitchell. A.H. Mitchell continued on with the firm after the death of his brother in 1949 until his own passing on 19 April 1973. ('Lower Hutt Central Fire Station', NZHPT Registration Report (Record no. 9319)).

Kerswill, Frederick E.

Frederick E. Kerswill, A.N.Z.I.A.

F.E. Kerswill was educated at the University College London where he met Alan Mitchell. In 1938 Mitchell invited Kerswill to come and join the firm of Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners and Kerswill arrived in New Zealand in the summer of 1939. He was a senior architect in the firm from that time and after the death of A.H. Mitchell he and Terry Gooch bought the firm. Kerswill was a member of the New Zealand Institute of Architects and sat on the joint committee with the New Zealand Institution of Engineers. ('Lower Hutt Central Fire Station', NZHPT Registration Report (Record no. 9319))

Cement Products Construction Company

Cement Products Construction Company, Lower Hutt.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

From Volunteers to Professionals

New Zealand fire fighting forces have had a long and proud tradition of being conducted by volunteers and in more recent times a respected profession. The development of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade from a volunteer-based organisation into a professional one is represented by the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station which played an important role in the expansion and professionalism of municipal fire fighting services in Lower Hutt.

The creation of the Hutt Valley is connected to the story of the two taniwha Ngake and Whaitaitai who lived in the harbour, which at that time was a lake. Ngake wanted to escape the lake and planned to smash his way through to Raukawa Moana, Cook Strait. He positioned himself on the edge of the lake and using his tail as a spring he thrust himself forward and broke through to the sea creating Te Whanganui O Tara, Wellington Harbour. The force of the uncoiling tail of Ngake carved out Heretaunga (also known as Te Awa Kairangi), the Hutt Valley.

Prior to European settlement the valley was covered with thick forest and abundant birdlife, other areas that were close to the river mouth and other tributaries were made up of swampland, the harbour provided plentiful seafood. Maori occupied the region known as Te Upoko o te Ika for several centuries with many settlements along the foreshore.

The area was one of contest for the occupying groups, with waves of migration from the north and challenges for the region raging from the 1820s up to the time that the New Zealand Company ship Tory arrived in Te Whanganui O Tara and anchored off Pit-one, now known as Petone, in 1839. At that time a number of iwi, Ngati Tama, Taranaki, Ngati Ruanui, Te Atiawa, and Ngati Toa, were occupying the area of the Porirua Basin to Ohariu and Heretaunga.

Maori in the area welcomed the arrival of the New Zealand Company and the chief of Pito-one Pa Te Puni and his nephew Te Wharepouri, negotiated with William Wakefield, the New Zealand Company's agent, to allow settlement. A deed of purchase was agreed, with the key document being the Port Nicholson Deed No.1. The agreement provided for the setting aside of one tenth of what was called the Port Nicholson Block, calculated at 200,000 acres, in perpetuity for the descendents of the iwi. Subsequent failure to protect these reserves and the beneficial interests of descendents led to several Treaty of Waitangi claims and the formation of the Wellington Tenths Trust to represent the descendents and administer the Maori Reserve land.

The first immigrant ship, the Aurora, arrived on 22 January 1840 and fledging settlements on the foreshore and further up the river valley called Britannia were started. However, within months of settlement the Hutt River flooded, and the settlers decided to move the new colony to Pipitea (Thorndon), with some settlers remaining at the north end of the harbour.

The river was named after the founding member, director and chairman of the New Zealand Company, Sir William Hutt (1791-1882) and led to the area and its cities being named after Hutt.

In 1855 a major earthquake raised part of the lower valley allowing swampland to be drained and reclaimed for farming and further settlement. The arrival of the railway north from Wellington in 1874 and the subsequent relocation of the railway's engineering works to Petone led to a rapid expansion of the area's population and economy. Other industries, including the Gear Meat Preserving and Freezing Company acquired land in Petone. However, an increase in population, housing and industry brought with it the threat of fire.

In response to a fire that destroyed a few houses and a small business in Aglionby Street, Lower Hutt, a decision was made by community leaders to form a dedicated fire fighting force. The Lower Hutt Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed 13 October 1905 following a public meeting that was chaired by the Mayor, T.W. McDonald. Offices were elected with H. Baldwin as Chairman and Tom W. Slinn as Secretary. A Fire Brigade meeting was called on the 20 October 1905; the meeting confirmed the minutes, the office appointments and resolved to elect its own Captain and Officers. Tom Slinn was subsequently elected Captain and went on to serve in the Brigade until his retirement in 1940.

The objective of the Brigade was the 'extinction of fires and the protection of life and property'. The motto 'Willing to Serve' put volunteering and service at the forefront but was changed later to 'Prompt to Assist' to recognise the central need of the Brigade to provide a quick response to call outs.

The Lower Hutt Borough Council set up a Brigade Committee to finance and equip the brigade. It purchased 1000 feet of hose, provided helmets for the members and erected a shed with a fire bell. At the first Lower Hutt Fire Brigade's Annual General Meeting, the Brigade thanked the Borough Council for its contributions. The Borough Council erected an appliance station made of wood and iron in High Street, Lower Hutt and at some point a meeting room was added and a bell tower erected. The brigade used a horse-drawn manual fire engine and two horses were hired out at 5 shillings per horse per call.

In 1923 discussions were held by the Brigade Committee of the Borough Council about the construction of a new fire station and additions to the equipment, including the purchase of a new fire engine. A decision was made to construct a new two storey brick fire station on Laings Road (now the site of the Hutt City Council administration building). In June 1925 the fire station and new fire engine were officially handed over to the Brigade by the Mayor, W.T. Stand. In 1931 the Brigade celebrated its 25th Silver Jubilee, and Gold Stars rewarding 25 years of service were awarded to Superintendent Slinn and Foreman B. Fleet.

It was humble beginnings but the Brigade and its services would grow to reflect the population increase and the expansion of Lower Hutt through the 1930s and 40s. The large scale construction of state housing developments for the Hutt Valley including the development of the land blocks of Taita, Epuni and Naenae, meant an increase in calls and a wider area to cover. In 1939 the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade appointed its first permanent officer, H. G. Hume as Deputy Superintendent, to reflect this change.

By 1940 the Lower Hutt Brigade had three permanent and 22 volunteer firemen and became a municipal fire brigade when Lower Hutt achieved City Status with the population surpassing 20,000 in 1941. In 1942 the control of the Municipal Fire Service was transferred to a newly established body, the Lower Hutt Fire Board. The Board soon appreciated the urgent need for a better station and accommodation facilities to keep pace with the huge growth in the district and the need for a more professional fire fighting service. Between 1940 and 1952 the population of Lower Hutt more than doubled to over 45,300. The government housing schemes had contributed about 5,400 houses and with the increase in population came the industry to employ them.

The Laings Road Fire Station was sold to the Wellington Free Ambulance Board in 1943 but was leased until the Board could come up with an alternative. The building was later declared unsafe and demolished to make way for the Lower Hutt City Civic Centre development. The Board began to investigate a site for a new central station and the provision of residential quarters. The Waterloo Road site fulfilled the need of a central location, as the road ran on a west-east axis that gave access to the main routes in and out of Lower Hutt, and was a large area to accommodate the new station and residential quarters.

There was resistance from the local residents who were concerned about the proposal to site a large fire station in a residential street. Opposition in the form of a petition signed by 26 residents was presented by the Waterloo Road Residents' Committee to the Lower Hutt Fire Board to object to the taking of the land in Waterloo Road. The Fire Board was resolute in its decision to go ahead with the build on the site, as it was the only site identified that fitted their requirements. However, the concerns of the residents were to be mollified by the design brief.

The land consisted of a two acre site that had access from Waterloo Road and Marina Grove, and was acquired under the Public Works Act 1928 for the purposes of a Fire Brigade Station in 1947. The brief by the Fire Board was for a Fire Station, workshop, and fire tower including a smoke room, and residential quarters with up to fifteen units for married firemen. Single men were to be accommodated inside the fire station. The Board was conscious of the residential location and the design needed to not detract from the residential aspect of the neighbourhood.

In August 1945 the Lower Hutt Fire Board confirmed the appointment of the firm of Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners as its architects, in association with Weymouth Keith Cook, known as Keith Cook, of King, Cook and Dawson, in August 1945. Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners would have the overall responsibility for the work on the project but there would be collaboration with Cook over the design and planning. Both firms were experienced in the design of commercial and civic buildings as well as residential designs.

An initial site plan was drawn up by the architects in 1949 that laid out the positions of the proposed fire station and residential quarters. The design featured a lot of planting that gave it a more residential feel and the driveway from Marina Grove, which gave access to the residential units, had curves to soften the effects of the hard edges of the apartment blocks.

At this time changes were happening in the fire service with the formation of the Fire Services Council under Fire Services Act 1949 and the appointment of Mr T.A. Varley as Dominion Chief Fire Officer. Varley had an expert knowledge of overseas practices and up to date developments and was able to assist the board with finalising the plans. It is unknown if the plans were changed substantially in accordance with Varley's advice. The final designs for the elevations of the main fire station building were completed by November 1952.

Post-War Modernism and the Modern

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is a fine example of Post-War Modernism which was a dominant architectural style in Lower Hutt in the 1950s. The ideals of the design resonated with the feeling of the city, one of embracing progress and modernism; this was emulated in the use of new materials like reinforced concrete, steel and glass. It was an architectural style that had its origins at the start of the twentieth century with various architectural movements that embraced new materials, processes and forms. For New Zealand there was a measured progression from the Art Deco and Moderne into the International Style that was Modernism.

For Lower Hutt these feelings of progress and aspiration were well articulated in the 'Modernist' Lower Hutt War Memorial Library (completed in 1956 and designed by Ron Muston) and the large mural within, painted by Victor Leonard William Mitchell, known always as Leonard, and entitled 'Human Endeavour'. It depicts fifty Lower Hutt people from different backgrounds and time periods who are working towards a better future. The library was part of an important civic precinct redevelopment that was under the leadership and guidance of the Lower Hutt Mayor, J.W. Andrews and the newly appointed city planner, R.D.H. Hill. The civic centre and various other municipal buildings, including the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station and the Transport Centre (demolished and now the site of the Queensgate Mall) defined Lower Hutt as a flagship of Post-War Modernism.

Keith Cook was heavily involved in the design of two buildings that form part of the Lower Hutt Civic Centre. The Town Hall and Administration Building (1957) and the Horticultural Hall (1959) which reflect the Post-War Modernist aesthetic and show a consistency in approach and design that had been articulated in the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station.


The new fire station was not just a Modern building in terms of its materials and aesthetics. It was also to incorporate the most up-to-date technology and design for modern fire fighting needs. Features included a fire tower and smoke house, used to condition firemen to respirator work, which was heralded as being in the latest design and was to be the first in New Zealand. The station would feature four appliance doors, the latest equipment and a remote control watchroom.

The Fire Board gave priority approval for the construction of the four blocks that made up the residential quarters in 1951 and the Lower Hutt Fire Board appointed J.M. Construction Company Limited as the builder. Keith Cook was the project architect for this development.

Construction began and the Fire Board vented its frustration at Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners over the delays in calling tenders for the construction of the Fire Station. The architects responded that the delays were due to the lack of response from the various agencies, including the government architect's office, fire commission and council building controller, who needed to give their consent to the plans and specifications. All consents were received in late 1953, tenders were called and the contract was let to the Cement Products Construction Company for the cost of £93,000. Construction was overseen by the project architect F.E. Kerswill, for Mitchell and Mitchell and Partners and was completed in 1955.


The Hutt News reported on the opening of the new fire station at a final cost of £205,000. It stated that 'the station embodies the most modern developments of fire station planning and equipment.' The fire station and residential blocks were officially opened on 16 November 1955 by the Honourable S.W. Smith, the Minister of Internal Affairs, with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque. The Chairman of the Lower Hutt Fire Board, H.V. Horlor officiated over the proceedings and the speakers included the Right Honourable Walter Nash, Member of Parliament for the Hutt Electorate; the Deputy Chairman of the Fire Service Council; the Chief Service Officer; and the Mayor of Lower Hutt. 250 people attended the opening and represented a wide selection of interests including government, insurance, local bodies, trade, surrounding brigades, ex-members and the general public. It was a very much a local affair with the music being provided by the Hutt Valley High School Band.

The Minister commented on the need for fire fighting facilities and equipment to keep up with the development of the city, and congratulated the architects on the 'styling of the buildings, which was keeping with the surrounding residential area'. The Minister was presented with a portable fire extinguisher by representatives of the two architectural firms that designed the station and residential blocks. The Hutt News report also commented on the landscaping and gardening development which was in cooperation with the Lower Hutt City Council and carried out by Mr A. White, Director of Parks and Reserves, and his staff.

The Evening Post featured an article that described the new Lower Hutt Fire Station as the 'most modern in the Southern Hemisphere' as expressed by the Dominion Chief Fire Officer, T.A. Varley, and the facilities were of the 'most up-to-date character' and the 'result of fire-fighting experience from all parts of the world'. Features of the modern station included a manned control room that allowed the reception of calls and the ability to start and stop the fire engines remotely and open the appliance doors electronically. 'The receiving and handling of calls and their timing were automatically recorded. The machinery for this was both simple and foolproof and was novel for New Zealand'. Technology for alerting fireman when a call was made, whether they were in their quarters, their gardens or on drill was also a feature and they were able to descend the latest type of poles that were child proof. The design and positioning of the poles was said to be in accordance with contemporary practice in fire station planning and equipment in the United Kingdom.

The new home for the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade coincided with the 50th Jubilee of the Brigade, which was celebrated on the 10 December 1955. At that time the Lower Hutt Brigade consisted of sixteen permanent and eleven auxiliary fire fighters and officers.

Life at the Station

Life for fireman in the brigade reportedly became easier after the new fire station was built. No doubt it became easier for their families also with accommodation now provided on site and the new station becoming a focal point for an active and supportive community. Lee Bailey recounted her memories of living and raising a family at the Waterloo Road Fire Station in Colin Gray's history Bells to Sirens: 100 years of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade:

'In 1961 to live at the Lower Hutt Fire Station was to experience communal living at its best...such close living had its ups and downs. There were never any secrets between houses....doors were never locked and parents often left the children asleep in bed to go out with intercoms rigged between the children's bedrooms and the flat next door... the Guy Fawkes Bonfires in the Station yard, the Xmas parties, birthday parties and any party for both children and adults were events not be missed, Station life had much to be grateful for'.

The 1950s would also see a period of consolidation and amalgamation for the brigades in the region. In 1956, upon Stokes Valley becoming part of Lower Hutt City, the Stokes Valley brigade came under the control of the Lower Hutt Fire Chief. Then in 1958 the Belmont Fire Brigade requested the Lower Hutt Brigade cover calls within their district. By 1959 meetings were being held with the Days Bay and Point Howard Brigades with consideration given to forming a new fire Board with the hope that 'a larger fire board could provide better training facilities and control'. The Hutt Valley and Bays Fire Board was formed in April 1959, and took control of four stations, Lower Hutt, Stokes Valley, Point Howard and Days Bay. On the formation of the New Zealand Fire Commission and nationalisation of the Fire Service in 1976 the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade became part of the No 4 Region Wellington. Further changes to the command structure followed in 1981, 1986 and in 1995 with a return to separate fire districts including the Hutt Fire District.

In 2005 the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade celebrated 100 years of 'Brave and Loyal Service' and to honour the occasion the book written by Colin Gray was launched at the reunion. The celebrations consisted of a public open day, a dinner where gold stars and long service awards were made and a Sunday barbeque breakfast at the fire station to end the festivities.

The Future of Fire Cover in Lower Hutt

For over 50 years the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station provided a home, recreation, education and a base for the members of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade. However, a continuing increase in the population and the growth of Lower Hutt City meant that the provision of fire services was again under the spotlight in the twenty-first century. A decision was made to close the Waterloo Road Fire Station with the construction of three new fire stations in Seaview, Alicetown and Avalon, which became operational in January 2007. It was reported in the Hutt News that due to the number of calls from the suburbs and the time taken to attend it was better to have smaller stations closer to the fires. The Fire Service stated that the $5.5 million project would modernise fire cover in Lower Hutt with the new stations being designed with input from local fire fighters and would provide the best available fire cover for at least the next 30 years.

The former Lower Hutt Central Fire Station had served the Lower Hutt community for over 50 years and its longevity is a testament to the planning and design of the site and building which sustained fighting services for such a lengthy period of time.

The residential units were sold for private residences in 1990 and the building and the site were purchased by the Commissioner of Crown Lands in 2009 to be held for Treaty Settlement purposes.

Physical Description

General Location

The former Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is located on the busy Waterloo Road which runs on a west to east axis. To the west is the Lower Hutt City Central Business District (CBD) and to the east is the busy Waterloo Train Station and industrial area. The building is located in a residential area that is dominated by large homes that are well established with mature plantings. In close proximity are two large schools. To the west is Chilton Saint James School, an Anglican school for girls, and to the east is St Bernard's College, an integrated Catholic school for boys.


The Fire Station was formerly part of a wider complex of two storey residential units that are now privately owned and separated by fences. The residential units to the north are accessed via the cul de sac Marina Grove. A four unit building is to the west and a six unit building dominates the northern boundary.

The Fire Station is set back only by a couple of metres from the footpath, with access to the rear via concrete driveways on both sides. A large concreted yard forms the rear with a fire tower, smoke room and workshop located in the northeast corner.

External Description

The Lower Hutt Central Fire Station is an impressive two storeyed symmetrical building made of reinforced concrete with metal windows. The façade is in the style of the modern movement with smooth, flat surfaces, little ornamentation with the two wings having curved edges and the use of horizontal bands of metal windows. The design shows influences from several movements which have developed overseas and incorporated into New Zealand domestic architecture with some vigour and local interpretation. The design was also influenced by the brief from the Lower Hutt Fire Board that wanted the design to detract as little as possible from the neighbourhood. The reflection of the residential unit features meant that the design went some way toward harmonising the buildings with its surroundings.

The influences of Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) can be seen in the strongly emphasised axis, long roofs, and volumes developed from a central core that were key characteristics of some of his residential work. It is likely that the architects consciously drew on both European and North American movements in their design, and responded to the requirement to moderate the imposing building requirements for four fire appliance entranceways in a residential setting.

The south elevation which faces onto Waterloo Road is the most visually appealing with a strong symmetry and rhythm on both the horizontal and vertical axis. The central core is square in appearance with a hipped roofline that is set back. It is pierced from the top by a flagpole and below on the parapet is the building name in bronze lettering. The second storey is characterised by four sets of three tall windows that are separated by three large vertical columns that lead down to and define the four appliance entrances. The central face is recessed to provide for a forecourt and on either side are two protruding wings. These substantial wings moderate the scale and the height difference with the central core by having hipped rooflines, curving corners and rhythmically spaced bands of metal windows that carry on a horizontal symmetry. The rooflines are similar to those of the four residential blocks that lie to the north and west, and carry the same usage as the east wing which provided accommodation for single men.

The street facing elevation remembers classical façades while attaining an elegant Modern approach. The columns, beams and joinery have a restrained decoration that moderates what is a large commercial building and keeps it in harmony with its residential setting.

The rhythm and symmetry of the design is continued around the building to the rear or north elevation. The features of the south elevation are repeated but unlike the north elevation they are even more restrained with no detailing and denote it as the business end of the building and not the public face. A canopy provides shelter and more covered space for operational tasks with access to the appliance room through a set of four entrance doors. The rear doors are original in materials and design while the front doors have been replaced with more contemporary materials and remote functioning.

Internal Description

The central appliance room is at the core of the building and is a cavernous, space that housed up to four appliances. Access was via four entrance doors that are repeated at the rear court yard. Above the appliance room was the recreational facilities for the fireman. The street or north elevation had a billiard room and social room separated by folding doors. To the rear were the kitchen and mess rooms that also had folding doors that led to the social room.

Eight single occupancy bedrooms occupied the length of the second story of the east wing, separated by a passage with various wash rooms and stores rooms on the other side of the passage. Below on the ground floor were rooms required for fire fighting work including equipment, ablutions, general stores and lockers.

On the ground floor of the west wing were the offices that provided a space for interface with the public in the form of a lobby and public counter that was assessable from a ground floor street front entrance. Also located at the front was the watchroom with views into the appliance room and windows providing a view through to Waterloo Road. This was an important place for fire fighting coordination, with the offices for the superintendent, deputy superintendent and the board room located to the rear. The second storey provided a large space for training in the form of a lecture room and common room.

Internal stairways located to the street front of the building provided access to the second storey of the wings with more stairs leading to the rooms above the central area. A notable feature and part of the modern fire fighting design at the time were the four pole shafts that were accessible from the accommodation and recreation areas that are located on the split levels. They were positioned to the rear of the station so as not to obstruct walkways and provide safe and direct access to the appliances. An important safety feature in the design for the sliding poles was that they were housed in alcoves that were accessed through double doors fitted with a spring latch and self-closing check springs.

Construction Dates

Minor interior modifications and additions.

Original Construction
1955 -
Opening of the Lower Hutt Central Fire Station

Construction Details

Reinforced concrete, metal joinery and timber.

Completion Date

27th January 2010

Report Written By

Natasha Naus

Information Sources

Shaw, 1997 (2003)

Peter Shaw, A History of New Zealand Architecture, Auckland, 1997

Bowman, 2002 (3)

Ian Bowman, 1950s buildings: Lower Hutt City's post-war modern movement buildings, Hutt City Council, Lower Hutt, c.2002.

Gatley, 2008

Julia Gatley (ed.), Long Live the Modern: New Zealand's New Architecture 1904-1984, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2008

Gray, 2005

Colin Gray, Bells to Sirens: 100 Years of the Lower Hutt Fire Brigade, 1905-2005, Lower Hutt Fire Brigade, Lower Hutt, 2005.

Wilson, 1996 (2)

John Wilson (ed.), Zeal and Crusade: The Modern Movement in Wellington, Te Waihora Press, Christchurch, 1996

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.