Oamaru Harbour Board Office (Former)

2 Harbour Street, South Hill, Ōamaru

  • Oamaru Harbour Board Office (Former). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Phil Braithwaite. Taken By: PhilBee NZ - Phil Braithwaite. Date: 9/04/2012.
  • Oamaru Harbour Board Office (Former).
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Heather Bauchop. Date: 3/04/2008.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 4381 Date Entered 2nd July 1987 Date of Effect 2nd July 1987


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 1 DP 332876 (RTs 134675, 800188), Otago Land District and the building known as Oamaru Harbour Board Office (Former) thereon.

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 332876 (RTs 134675, 800188), Otago Land District

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

This building is an important link with the development of Oamaru Harbour over 100 years. Built two years after the formation of the Harbour Board, it served as the Board's headquarters right through its extensive port construction. All the business of the Board was run from this office, the Board room and Inspector's office being upstairs. The building has connections with all the Board members who were prominent in Oamaru's history including pioneer and merchant George Sumpter (President 1876-91), H J Miller ( the first President 1874-6), Shrimski McMaster, Meek etc. The ornate Venetian style of the building was thought appropriate to the Board's sense of importance and prosperity.


The building is an elegant, heavily embellished structure with Venetian detailing. It is one of the first public buildings designed by Forrester and Lemon in Oamaru, and one which helped cement their reputation as the town's principal architects. Forrester was appointed Secretary and Inspector of Works to the Dock Trust (Oamaru Harbour Board from 1874) in 1871 and held this position until his death in 1907. He was the outstanding figure in the history of the harbour's construction.


The building is prominent in the Harbour/Tyne Street Conservation Area. In its corner position it acts as a visual stop when viewed from Tyne Street. Its appearance and scale is entirely compatible with adjacent buildings.


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 well proportioned, two storey façade in the Venetian Renaissance style, made up of an arcaded elevation of round headed windows capped by a boldly projecting cornice. There is considerable attention to decorative detail in the delicate brackets supporting the cornice, the usual composite capitals, and the ground floor windows, which have flanking colonettes and vermiculated voussoirs on the window arches. The first floor pilasters are 'staggered' creating an effect of depth.


Original balustraded parapet and tympanum removed otherwise building is in largely original condition.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1876 -

Construction Details

Oamaru stone

Information Sources

Oamaru Borough Council

Historic Building Catalogue

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.

This registration is also included in the Harbour/Tyne Street Historic Area (Record no. 7064).

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.