Gardener's Cottage (Former)

Queens Drive, Government Gardens, Rotorua

  • Gardener's Cottage (Former).
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust.
  • Gardener's Cottage (Former).
    Copyright: Rotorua District Council. Date: 1/06/1910.
  • Gardener's Cottage (Former). Image courtesy of
    Copyright: PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite). Taken By: PhilBee NZ (Phil Braithwaite). Date: 2/01/2011.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 2708 Date Entered 7th April 1983 Date of Effect 7th April 1983


City/District Council

Rotorua District


Bay of Plenty Region

Legal description

Pt Sec 2 Blk I Tarawera SD (RT SA39B/971) Recreation Reserve (NZ Gazette 1984 p.2272), South Auckland Land District.

Location description

Enter through Queens Drive and cottage is the first building on the left.


The Gardener’s Cottage is the earliest of the surviving heritage buildings in the Rotorua Government Gardens.

Built in 1899, eighteen years after the then Sanatorium Reserve was established, its construction was possibly initiated by the appointment in late 1898 of Thomas Pearson as the landscape gardener of Government Reserves in the Rotorua District. Pearson was considered one of the leading horticulturalists in New Zealand at that time. Formerly employed by the Tasmanian Government, he was reportedly engaged in major landscape works by 1900. The main fruit and vegetable garden supplying the kitchens of the Sanatorium and later the tea rooms were located at the rear of the cottage. Nearby, where the current Council nursery is located, was the site of the orchard (given the many years of cultivation of the nursery area it is unlikely any below ground evidence of the orchard plants remains). The growing of produce as specified by the first Balneologist, Dr Wohlmann, to supply the kitchens of the Sanatorium and later the tearoom, was a core requirement of the role as diet was a key component of Wohlmann’s holistic approach to healing. Scientifically extremely significant, the Rotorua Government Gardens’ grounds were used by (Sir) James Hector and the Colonial Botanic Gardens as one of the early trial grounds for the ecosystem testing of seeds and plants of potential economic merit, the Head Gardener was crucial to assisting with such tests.

The cottage is a small bay villa with timber framing, weatherboard cladding and a corrugated iron roof. The original cottage was substantially enlarged in 1920 to 1921. Its interior has retained the original timber ceilings, doors, architraves and skirting. The timber tongue in groove floor is covered in some rooms. The cottage exterior has recently been repainted close to the original paint scheme.

The Gardener’s Cottage is significant as the earliest surviving built structure within the Rotorua Government Gardens and as the building with the strongest association with the men directly involved in forming and evolving the heritage landscape of the Rotorua Government Gardens. Archaeologically, the grounds within the Cottage’s curtilage, as a landscape of pre 1900 human activity of both its evolving decorative and fruit and vegetable gardens, are of considerable importance for information they may hold in respect of historic plant material, phytoliths etcetera. Evidence of the Rotorua Government Gardens’ changing landscape and the influence of its gardeners, provides important information and understanding of New Zealand’s gardens history and of changing plant fashions and horticultural aesthetics and practices. The Cottage is highly important as a representation of the holistic approach to medical treatment of, in particular, Wohlmann’s patients and of the changing fashion and popularity of various treatments including diet, and the importance attached to this, of consuming meals made from fresh, locally grown produce. The Cottage is associated with a number of high profile civil servants and employees who provided guidance and expertise in site planning, laying out, planting and maintaining of the landscape through time. These are specifically, John Barrett, Henry Matthews, Thomas Pearson and William Wilcox who were employed variously as Head Gardeners, Reserves Overseers and Supervisors. The Cottage reflects the status and importance afforded the senior garden related positions over time. It is the building within the Gardens that has the strongest association with the overall importance of the actual grounds. These are highly significant to education and understanding of the evolution of botanical science and garden and landscape development in New Zealand. Those who lived in the Cottage had a strong influence over the landscape changes over time, now a significant arboricultural record of the late nineteenth and twentieth century in New Zealand.


Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1899 -

Completion Date

7th November 2011

Report Written By

G. Henry, J. Schuster, T. Ngata, L. Pattison

Other Information

Information in this report is from the registration report for the Rotorua Government Gardens Historic Area (Register no. 7015). A fully referenced copy of this report is available from the Lower Northern Office of the NZHPT.

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.