Union Bank of Australia (Former)

12 Tyne Street, Oamaru

  • Union Bank of Australia (Former), Oamaru.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 24/01/2017.
  • Union Bank of Australia (Former), Oamaru. CC Licence 2.0 Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.
    Copyright: Tim Parkinson - Wikimedia Commons. Taken By: Tim Parkinson. Date: 19/09/2006.
  • Union Bank of Australia (Former), Oamaru.
    Copyright: www.dayout.co.nz. Taken By: Alan Wylde.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2306 Date Entered 2nd July 1987 Date of Effect 2nd July 1987


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Secs 7-8 Blk III Town of Oamaru (RT OT5A/805), Otago Land District, and the building associated with the Union Bank of Australia (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Secs 7-8 Blk III Town of Oamaru (RT OT5A/805), Otago Land District

Location description

CT 5A/805 as per Heritage Covenant 1999.


The former Union Bank of Australia was designed by Oamaru architectural partnership Forrester and Lemon and opened in 1879. It has historical, architectural and townscape significance as ‘an early example of the Venetian palazzo style’ and one of the partnership’s finest bank buildings. It is a symbol of Oamaru’s growing prosperity.

The Union Bank was one of the earliest banks to open in New Zealand, its first branch established in Petone, shifting to Wellington when the city was surveyed. Its Dunedin branch opened in 1857, one of many throughout the country. The Union Bank of Australia opened in Oamaru in 1873, with its first premises on Tyne Street. By 1877, there were plans for ‘new and handsome premises.’ Forrester designed the new premises in Venetian style, a style, art historian Conal McCarthy writes, was ‘entirely appropriate for a building of that function because of the role Venice had played as a financial centre.’

The Union Bank of Australia has two storeys and is built of Oamaru stone. McCarthy writes that it is one of the earliest examples of the Venetian Palazzo style. The ornate detailing includes balustrades and flanking colonettes added to the first floor windows, and a balustrade and scroll on the parapet (now removed). The decorative detailing results in a strong play of light and shade, and the elaborate façade reflects the prosperity of Oamaru in the 1870s. The building was in strong contrast to its then neighbour, the Bank of New Zealand built in 1865 (and since demolished), illustrating the commercial rivalry and the town’s wealth. The Union Bank was to influence subsequent bank designs.

The bank looks to have closed in the 1920s. John Moore of Oamaru bought the land in 1927. In the 1930s, after Moore’s death the building was owned by Raymond Gibb and Robert Milligan. They sold the land to the Oamaru Squash and Badminton Club in 1957. The Union Bank of Australia merged with the Bank of Australasia to form the ANZ Bank in 1951. In 2015, the building remains home to the Oamaru Squash and Badminton Club.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Union Bank (the forerunner of the ANZ Bank) was established in Tyne Street in 1873. The opulent appearance of the building was a symbol of Oamaru's growing prosperity and an example of commercial rivalry existing between the banks in the town.


Despite its alterations and additions, this building is notable for its superb façade. It is a major work by Forrester and one of the first examples of the Venetian palazzo style of commercial architecture in New Zealand. Mason and Clayton's Bank of New Zealand (1865) now demolished, was sited immediately adjacent to the Union Bank in Tyne Street which at that time formed the commercial heart of the town.


The building is included in the Harbour/Tyne Street Conservation Area but its immediate environment has been marred somewhat by unsympathetic additions.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Forrester & Lemon

The architectural partnership of Forrester and Lemon was established in Oamaru in 1872.

Thomas Forrester (1838-1907) was born in Glasgow and educated at the Glasgow School of Art. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1861 he settled in Dunedin and worked under William Mason (1810-97) and William Henry Clayton (1823-77) and later Robert Arthur Lawson (1833-1902). In 1865 he superintended the Dunedin Exhibition and from 1870 he became involved with the supervision of harbour works. Some time after 1885 he became Engineer to the Oamaru Harbour Board and in this capacity designed the repairs to the breakwater following storm damage in 1886 and later the Holmes Wharf. On his death in 1907 he was still in the employ of the Harbour Board.

John Lemon (1828-1890) was born in Jamaica and travelled to England before emigrating to New Zealand in 1849. He settled in Oamaru in 1860 and with his brother Charles established a timber merchant's business. By 1869 he was in partnership with his father-in-law, George Sumpter calling themselves "Timber and General Merchants, Land and Commission Agents". This partnership was dissolved in 1872 and Lemon entered into partnership with Forrester. Lemon had no architectural experience at all, but had a wide circle of business contacts and was an efficient administrator.

Buildings designed by the partnership of Forrester and Lemon include St Paul's Church (1875-76), the Harbour Board Offices (1876), Queen's (later Brydone) Hotel (1881), Waitaki Boys' High School (1883), The Courthouse (1883) and the Post Office (1883-84), all in Oamaru. Forrester and Lemon contributed greatly to Oamaru's nineteenth century character. On Lemon's death in 1890 the practice was taken over by Forrester's son, John Megget Forrester (1865-1965).

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


A lavish Victorian Italianate building with Venetian features. First floor has a detached Corinthian colonnade flanking round-headed windows. The windows have balustrades and flanking colonettes. The ground floor is heavily rusticated creating a monumental effect.


The original parapet and other top hamper has been removed. Three ground floor windows and the doorway have been blocked in. An unsympathetic addition has been made to the building's left side.

Notable Features

High quality exterior ornamentation carved in Oamaru stone.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1878 -

1879 -
6 February – Union Bank opened

Concrete Block addition

Construction Details

Oamaru stone

Completion Date

9th September 2015

Report Written By

Heather Bauchop

Information Sources

McCarthy, 2002

Conal McCarthy, Forrester and Lemon of Oamaru, architects, Oamaru, 2002

Oamaru Borough Council

Historic Building Catalogue

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 Otago/Southland Office of Heritage New Zealand