Buller County Chambers (Former)

161 Palmerston Street, Westport

  • Buller County Chambers (Former). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com.
    Copyright: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Taken By: Shellie Evans - flyingkiwigirl. Date: 19/03/2015.
  • Buller County Chambers (Former).
    Copyright: Buller Community Development Co.
  • Buller County Chambers (Former).
    Copyright: Buller Community Development Co.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 5001 Date Entered 30th August 1990 Date of Effect 30th August 1990


Extent of List Entry

Extent of registration includes the land described as Sec 1074 SO Plan 7432 (RT NL10B/1025, NZ Gazette 1993 p. 44), Nelson Land District, and the building known as Buller County Chambers (Former) thereon. The building to the rear of the section is excluded from the registration.

City/District Council

Buller District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Sec 1074 SO 7432 (RT NL10B/1025, NZ Gazette 1993 p. 44), Nelson Land District



The Buller County Council met for the first time on 4 January 1877 and the first council offices were erected nine years later. The foundation stone of the present building was laid in 1940 by Donald Archer, Chairman of the County Council, to commemorate New Zealand's centennial year. The engineer who worked on the building was C.F. Schadick and the contractor was J.S. Jackson.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Having been established in 1861, Westport is the oldest European settlement on the West Coast. The town's County Council Chambers reflect the pre-eminent position of Westport in the Buller district and the local county council's contribution to the government of the region.


The building is an excellent unmodified example of the Moderne style which was fashionable in New Zealand during the 1930s as a popular alternative to the stylistic purity of the International Style.


The former County Chambers is a modestly proportioned building which enhances the low-rise character of Westport's main thoroughfare, Palmerston Street, and introduces an element of variety to the local streetscape.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Macdonald, Archibald

Archibald MacDonald resided in Westport between c.1938 and 1943 during which time he designed both the Municipal Chambers and the Buller County Chambers (c.1940). Further information about his training, personal life and professional achievements has yet to come to light. It seems likely, however, that MacDonald was in Westport solely on account of his work for the borough and county councils, and that after the completion of their new premises he left the town to work elsewhere, either in New Zealand or overseas.

Additional informationopen/close

Physical Description


This small single storey building stands on the west side of Palmerston Street and is built of reinforced concrete, plastered and lined out. Designed in the Moderne style, the building is largely symmetrical about a projecting entrance bay which is approached by a flight of semi-circular concrete steps. The latter are partially sheltered by a cantilevered slab roof which is also semi-circular in shape and rests beneath a geometric frieze and a very shallow pediment from which a flagpole rises.

By way of contrast with the box-like appearance of the entrance bay, the bays which flank it are lower in height and curve to meet the side walls of the building. The horizontal emphasis of this building, which is characteristic of Moderne architecture, is established in part by the fenestration which takes the form of bands of steel casement windows which are crowned by horizontal slabs of concrete serving as sunhoods. On the north side of the building this treatment extends from the entrance bay to the rear door but on the south side only those windows which light the front office are sheltered beneath a concrete sunhood. In this way the architect has maintained the apparent symmetry of the building when viewed from the street while avoiding the need to erect unnecessary sunhoods over the south-facing windows.

Inside the former Buller County Chambers the entrance porch communicates with a small foyer by way of double doors which are crowned by a leaded glass fanlight. An identical doorway also separates the front office and public inquiries counter from the rest of the building. The entrance foyer features a terrazzo floor and dark-stained timber dado and the doors throughout the building have received a decorative treatment. Interior ornament has been concentrated in the council chamber, however, which features a coffered ceiling, pilasters with stylised capitals and a large fireplace which is flanked by cupboards with leaded glass doors. The central hallway provides access to the council chamber, five offices, staff and storage facilities and is terminated, in the north-east corner of the building, by a door which provides wheelchair access to the council offices.


Date Unknown: New windows in men's toilets and rear office. Ramp built at rear door to provide wheelchair access to the building.

Notable Features

The interior ornament, especially in the council chamber.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1940 -

Construction Details

Concrete and steel.

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906

Wises Post Office Directories

Wises Post Office Directories

Dunedin: 1935, 1938, 1940, 1947

Macdonald, 1973

B. Macdonald, Westport - Struggle for Survival, Westport, 1973 [Westport Borough Council]

University of Canterbury

University of Canterbury

Files: New Zealand Architects and Architecture Files, School of Fine Arts Reference Room, University of Canterbury

Stone's Post Office Directory

Stone's Canterbury, Nelson, Marlborough and Westland Post Office Directory, Christchurch.

1936, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1945

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.

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.