Native Land Court building important reminder of past

Whanganui District Councillor and Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust member, Helen Craig, says the Trust is now ready to engage with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga staff on the best options for the restoration of the former Māori Land Court building in Whanganui. 

The Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust bought the Category 1 heritage building in 2020 after consultation with iwi representatives, with the intention of restoration and resale. Helen Craig says the sole aim was to buy and restore heritage buildings in the Whanganui central business district. “It is not our purpose to become long term owners of the building, but to restore and sell it. It is likely that it will take a couple of years to raise enough money to carry out restorations and interior renovations of the Land Court building that will hopefully meet with Heritage NZ Pouhere Taonga approval”.   

Whanganui List MP, Harete Hipango, supports the restoration of the building despite its painful past. “Some of the monuments at Pākaitore represent the injustices in our history. If we were to destroy them, it would erase the purpose they serve, as reminders that those injustices must never be repeated in our future”. 

The heritage listing states that the Native Land Court and Aotea Māori Land Building in Whanganui was built in 1922 and is a rare, if not unique, example of a purpose-built Native Land Court building in New Zealand.  

Helen says that since purchasing the building in August last, the trust has obtained a conservation report with support from the Lottery Environment and Heritage Grant Fund. “The building is sound and weathertight. Restoration of the exterior will require a surface treatment, painting and window repairs. Additional money will be needed to carry out interior renovations and restoration”.

Professor David Williams, author of Te Kooti Tango Whenua: the Native Land Court 1864-1909 is also a supporter of the building’s restoration. “It is a better option to preserve buildings like the Native Land Court building, while being mindful of the past, when repurposing them for the future,” he said. 

The Listing Report (No. 7783) summary can be read here.

- David Watt