Wellington Trades Hall

124-128 Vivian Street, Te Aro, Wellington 6011

  • Wellington Trades Hall, Wellington.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kerryn Pollock. Date: 27/08/2020.
  • Wellington Trades Hall, Wellington. West elevation. Caretaker's cottage can be seen on the roof top.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kerryn Pollock. Date: 27/08/2020.
  • Wellington Trades Hall, Wellington. SMS cage lift in the lobby.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Kerryn Pollock. Date: 27/08/2020.
  • Wellington Trades Hall, Wellington. Waterside workers outside Wellington Trades Hall in Vivian Street, Wellington. Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: 1/2-084855-G.
    Copyright: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington . Date: 12/05/1932.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 9618 Date Entered 18th February 2021 Date of Effect 10th March 2021


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Lot 2 DP 492559 (RT 723732), Wellington Land District and the building known as Wellington Trades Hall thereon, and the following chattels: certificate, bench, carved chair.

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 492559 (RT 723732), Wellington Land District


Wellington Trades Hall on Vivian Street, one of Wellington’s main arterial routes, was designed by noted Wellington architect William Fielding (1875-1946) and opened in 1929. It has outstanding historical significance for its connections with the union movement in Aotearoa New Zealand, with the lives of ordinary working people and well-known union figures, organisations like the Labour Party and Federation of Labour, and major events such as the 1951 waterfront dispute. The place’s identification with unionism was tragically demonstrated in 1984, when it became the site of the country’s first fatal terrorist attack. While an unsolved crime, it was clearly a calculated strike at the movement. As a home for unions since it opened, Wellington Trades Hall has special social significance as a place of great importance to the union community past and present and considerable efforts have been made to ensure its preservation.

The Wellington Trades and Labour Council started looking for a site on which to build a trades hall in 1901 but progress was slow. The property on Vivian Street was purchased in 1918 and the large house built in 1890 by Dr Albert Martin was used as a trades hall for a decade. Demand for office and meeting space outstripped supply and in 1927 William Fielding designed a neo-Classical three-storey office building on the street front connected by a bridge to an assembly hall in the middle and a printing works at the rear. The assembly hall and printing works buildings opened in 1928 and the office building, the current Wellington Trades Hall, in 1929.

The reinforced concrete office building was largely neo-Classical in style but a shift to Stripped Classical was evident in the limited use of ornamentation restricted to the main street-facing elevation. The main decorative feature was the central entrance, a double-door and half-round transom window set in a semi-circular arch with a rusticated finish, with the first floor window styled as an aedicule immediately above. A modest caretaker’s cottage was placed on the roof. The interior was distinguished by a central atrium with a glass roof.

Almost all the unions in Wellington moved into the office building and it was the headquarters of the Labour Party national office until 1939 and the Federation of Labour until the early 1970s. It was the place where the day-to-day business to improve the lives of ordinary working people was conducted by unions, as well as the organising of major events. Since at least the 1970s, unions were joined by social justice, peace and environmental organisations and voluntary groups and small businesses. In 1958 the central atrium was enclosed to make more office space and the assembly hall was demolished in 1988. The exterior of Wellington Trades Hall looks much as it did when the building opened in 1929.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

Wellington Trades Hall has historical significance for its deep and enduring connections with the union movement in Aotearoa New Zealand and this impact this movement had on the lives of ordinary working people. For over 90 years it has borne witnesses to the day-to-day business of trade unions and significant organisations like the Labour Party and the New Zealand Federation of Labour, and has been the meeting point for key events in the history of working people, such as Depression-era and 1951 waterfront dispute protests. It also has historical significance as the location of the country’s first fatal terrorist attack, which occurred in the wake of very fraught relations between the government and unions.

Architectural Significance or Value

Wellington Trades Hall has architectural significance as a good representative of a stylistic transition from the decorative neo-Classical to the more restrained Stripped Classical. The main, street-front elevation is very intact, enabling its transitional status to be easily read.

Social Significance or Value

Wellington Trades Hall is a place that brings people together in solidarity as they pursue the aims and objectives of the union movement. Staff and volunteers for social justice, peace and environmental groups have also met in the building for decades. It regularly attracts visitors with a past connection to the place and their family members, and people with an interest in the history of the movement. Community fundraising has supported a museum display in the building's lobby.

This place was assessed against the Section 66(3) criteria and found to qualify under the following criteria: a, b, e, f, and h. The assessment concludes that this place should be listed as a Category 1.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

Wellington Trades Hall is an outstanding reflection of the rise of the union and wider labour movement in Aotearoa New Zealand in the early twentieth century. The building was opened at a time when the Labour Party, which had a close association with the building, was in the ascendency, and it was the place where the New Zealand Federation of Labour was founded and based for decades. Unions have formed the core of its tenantry since it opened in 1929 and from its offices have strived to improve the lives of working people.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

Unionism is an idea of major importance in Aotearoa New Zealand history. This place’s status as the oldest purpose-built trades hall still used for its original purpose, and its location in the capital city, the seat of governmental power, gives it a specific significance in relation to this. The popular identification of the building with unionism was tragically demonstrated in 1984 when caretaker Ernie Abbott was killed by a bomb left by an unknown assailant with a grudge against the movement. As the country’s first fatal terrorist attack, this horrific event is of major historical importance, both to the union movement and in national politics. The 1951 waterfront dispute is another critical event in the country’s history and Wellington Trades Hall was an epicentre of the union response. The place is closely associated with leading Labour Party and union figures, such as Walter Nash, Fintan Patrick Walsh and Pat Kelly.

(e) The community association with, or public esteem for, the place

Wellington Trades Hall is of outstanding importance to the union community as a home for unions past and present. It is a long-standing place of work for officials advancing the interests of working people and the site of key events that are remembered by that community. This esteem is demonstrated by the commitment of Wellington Trades Hall Incorporated to the preservation of the building, the creation of a conservation plan and the establishment of a museum in the lobby.

(f) The potential of the place for public education

Members of the public can walk into Wellington Trades Hall off the street, take the cage lift up to the first and second floors and see office-upon-office door, behind which the business of unions has been conducted. Aside from some internal alterations, most notably the removal of the atrium, the building is authentic and the exterior looks much as it did when it opened in 1929. As the oldest purpose-built trades hall still being used for this purpose and one of only two in existence (the other dating from 1971), it is very well-placed to provide accessible insights into the history of the union movement in Aotearoa New Zealand.

(h) The symbolic or commemorative value of the place

Wellington Trades Hall is the site of Aotearoa New Zealand’s first fatal terrorist attack, which is commemorated in the naming of the Ernie Abbott meeting room. The building itself is synonymous with this event.

Summary of Significance or Values

Wellington Trades Hall has special significance for its historical and social values. As a functioning trades hall it is an excellent reflection of the historic importance of the union movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. It has a close historic association with the Labour Party, particularly in the years prior to and following its first period in government, and the New Zealand Federation of Labour during its heyday. As the historic home of unions in Wellington it was the site of business-as-usual work as well a gathering place for important events such as the 1951 waterfront dispute protests. The building’s affinity with the national union movement was tragically demonstrated in 1984 when it became the site of the country’s first fatal terrorist attack. It is highly valued by members of the union community as a place that has brought people together for a common cause.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Fielding, William

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The human presence in Wellington is said to begin with the explorer Kupe, who travelled to Aotearoa New Zealand from Hawaiki, the ancestral Polynesian homeland of Māori. He left his mark on the land by naming places, such as the islands Matiu and Mākaro in the harbour, before returning home. Following permanent settlement, the rangatira Tara, son of Whātonga and the eponymous ancestor of Ngāi Tara, travelled south from Māhia Peninsula and settled at the harbour, which came to be known as Te Whanganui-a-Tara, the great harbour of Tara. In the seventeenth century Ngāti Ira of Hawke’s Bay joined Ngāi Tara and extensive intermarriage occurred between the two tribes. Other iwi who made a home in the region included Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne, Ngāi Tahu and Ngāti Māmoe.

Te Ātiawa, Ngāti Tama and Ngāti Mutunga migrated south from Taranaki in the 1820s and early 1830s during a period of great upheaval associated with the introduction of Pākehā muskets into te ao Māori. Initially based on the Kāpiti Coast, the Taranaki people moved further south to Wellington, where they became dominant. In 1824 Ngāti Mutunga built the five-acre Te Aro Pā, which straddled both sides of present-day Taranaki Street just north of the intersection with Courtenay Place and Manners Street. The Waimapihi Stream flowed nearby and was an important food resource alongside the harbour’s kaimoana. Following organised Pākehā settlement, the pā would give its name to the wider area.

Pākehā Settlement

Te Aro Flat, as it became known, was included in the purchase of land at Te Whanganui-a-Tara by British colonising firm the New Zealand Company in 1839. The new town was initially located at Pito-one (Petone) near the mouth of the Heretaunga (Hutt River) but flooding in 1840 forced the settlers to the other side of the harbour, where Te Aro Pā was. The land purchase was highly dubious and many of the area’s occupants had not sold their land. Nevertheless, the New Zealand Company proceeded to divide the land into town acres and larger country sections and sold them to would-be settlers and speculators.

Town Acre 157

In 1860 Town Acre 157, the future site of the Wellington Trades Hall, was granted to John Martin, founder of the Wairarapa town of Martinborough. This was an investment purchase and the land remained undeveloped for 30 years. In 1890 Martin’s son Albert, a doctor, built an 18-room, two-storied house designed by architect Charles Tringham on part of the acre adjacent to Ingestre Street (now Vivian Street). Dr Martin and family lived in the house until 1917 when he died from blood poisoning after pricking his thumb with a surgical needle during an operation. The following year the Wellington Trades and Labour Council (WTLC; later the Wellington Trades Hall Incorporated or WTHI) purchased the building for a trades hall and was congratulated in the media for securing ‘such a fine home for Labour’.

Trade Unions

Early British settlers brought trade unionism to New Zealand but few local labour organisations existed before the 1870s. Some groups formed to contest particular battles but fell into abeyance once the contentious issues that prompted their creation were resolved. This changed following the mass migrations of the 1870s, when the New Zealand government worked with the British National Agricultural Farm Labourers’ Union to bring skilled farm workers to New Zealand. Unionism was strong among the likes of immigrant miners, seamen and shearers. This created the foundations for home grown-organised unions and in 1878 trade unions gained legal status.

The election of the Liberal-Labour government in 1890 was favourable for working people and unions. The creation of the Arbitration Court by this government in 1894 was a major milestone as employers now had to negotiate with registered unions on matters of work hours, pay and conditions. Union membership grew rapidly in the early 1900s and by 1913 New Zealand was one of the most unionised countries in the world.

New Building

Trades halls – buildings where different unions had offices, and meetings, lectures and social events were held – ‘symbolised the civic presence of the unions and their respectability’. In Wellington, the trades hall was in various rented premises in central city locations including Lambton Quay, Manners Street and Cuba Street, before the Martin house was purchased in 1918. As early as 1901, citing a rapidly growing membership, WTLC was on the lookout for a site on which to erect a purpose-built trades hall, arguing that ‘it is something approaching a disgrace that the capital city of the Colony…does not possess a building worthy of being designated a Trades’ Hall’.

Progress was slow. Fundraising did not begin in earnest until around 1914 and union members contributed a portion of their wages to a new building fund. Though the Martin house was spacious and well appointed, it was not big enough to accommodate the numerous labour organisations in the city and its days were numbered. Wellington architect William Fielding (1875-1946), who ‘made a substantial contribution to the fabric of Wellington city’ over the course of his career, was engaged to design a much larger replacement.

The resulting complex, designed in 1927 and built in sections over the next two years by Harold Edwards, was comprised of three separate parts, a neo-Classical three-storey office building on the street front connected by a bridge to an assembly hall in the middle and a printing works at the rear. The assembly hall and printing works were opened first in 1928, the occasion marked by four-day carnival of ‘entertainments, side-shows, competitions, sale of work, fancy fair, tearoom … children’s fancy dress ball [and a] Saturday evening dance’ with a jazz band. The printing works was leased by the New Zealand Worker Printing and Publishing Company, publisher of the New Zealand Worker journal (previously the Maoriland Worker) and the company bought the building in 1938. On 5 June 1929 Labour Party leader Harry Holland opened the three storey office building, which included a caretaker’s cottage on the roof. The New Zealand Worker published a 20-page souvenir edition to mark the occasion.

A Home for Unions

The entire construction project, an enormous undertaking for the WTLC, was described as a venture ‘easily the greatest undertaken by the [labour] Movement in this country up to the present time.’ In pronouncing it as ‘one of the steps which opens up the way… [to] a Government that will organise an industrial, political, and social system in which all shall contribute according to their ability, and shall receive according to their needs’, Labour Party secretary (and future prime minister) Walter Nash saw its presence as a sign of the party’s progress in the ascension to government. Indeed, after the 1928 general election the Labour Party’s 19 Members of Parliament held the balance of power, and would become the government for the first time in 1935.

Almost all the unions in Wellington moved into the office building and it was the headquarters of the Labour Party national office until 1939. In the first year of operation 32 different unions had offices there, representing a variety of workers, from the tramway workers, carpenters and joiners, plumbers and gasfitters and cooks. Many invested in the building and received interest payments every six months. The office rooms on three floors were arranged around a central glass-roofed atrium and there were five small shops on the ground floor. The offices were small, reflecting the financial position of the typical union. Some of the smaller unions shared a secretary and a room. For instance, in 1940 T.J.L. Tucker was the secretary for the Wellington Soap, Candle and Related Trades Union, the Wellington Drug, Chemical, Condiment, Sauce and Pickle Manufacturers Industrial Union of Workers, and the Wellington Tobacco Industrial Union of Workers.

The Clarté Book Shop, started by Walter Nash and taken over by the Labour Party in 1924, was an early shop tenant. Nash also had an office on the first floor in the early 1930s, in his business capacity and also as national secretary of the Labour Party. Other businesses included a ladies’ hairdresser (1930s and 1940s), Hannah Barsht’s fancy goods store (1940s and 1950s) and General Optical Laboratories (1960s).

As the home of the union movement in the capital city, the Wellington Trades Hall was associated with nationally significant events and organisations. During the great depression of the early 1930s, unemployed people and strikers gathered in the assembly hall for meetings. In May 1932 a 2,000-strong group of protestors, who had met at the hall earlier in the day, ‘the hall, stairways and corridors on every floor…jammed with humanity,’ marched up nearby Cuba Street to a rally at a vacant section at the south end of the street. The protestors were met by a strong contingent of police and the ensuing riot was a major local event in depression period. Police armed with batons charged protestors and the injured were taken back to the trades hall.

The election of the first Labour government in 1935 galvanised the union movement, particularly when compulsory unionism was instituted the following year. Deputy Prime Minister Peter Fraser was instrumental in the creation of the second New Zealand Federation of Labour (FoL), a pan-union organisation launched at the 1937 Unity Conference held in the assembly hall. The FoL became a major player in national wage negotiations and ‘helped to establish a basic living wage for all, which became a vital part of the welfare state’. The FoL headquarters was in the office building until the early 1970s; vice-president (1944-46, 1948-53) and president (1953-63) Fintan Patrick Walsh, who was also secretary for a number of unions, has been described as ‘unquestionably the most important figure in the history of the New Zealand labour movement. The FoL annual conferences were held in the assembly hall, which also hosted Labour Party and union conferences and a range of political meetings and social events, such as the 1936 conference of the new Labour Party Maori Organising Committee, which was created after the Rātana movement and Labour formed an alliance that year.

Wellington Trades Hall was an important meeting and gathering site during the 1951 waterfront dispute. The Waterside Workers’ Union met there daily during the dispute and members of other unions joined them in solidarity. Women’s groups formed to organise relief for locked out workers’ families also met at the hall. On 2 May 1951 over 1,000 unionists gathered outside the building, intending to march to Parliament.

‘Marching four abreast, singing popular soldiers’ songs and exchanging good-natured pleasantries with the early morning crowd, the long column of men was still turning from Vivian Street as its head reached the Cuba Street-Dixon Street intersection. Suddenly police raced from hiding and blocked the street….The hush of surprise at the first impact with the police was followed by the sharp crack and thud of batons falling on the front ranks of marchers….Then an angry roar filled Cuba Street. The unionists broke ranks to surge forward at the one hundred police bunched in the narrow street.’

Union leaders successfully encouraged the marchers to disperse, averting a riot, and the injured were taken back to the hall. Unionists marched again from the hall a few days later, this time in smaller groups, and made it to Parliament.

1984 Bombing

On 27 March 1984 Wellington Trades Hall became the site of New Zealand’s first fatal terrorist attack. At 5:19pm caretaker Ernie Abbott, who lived in the rooftop cottage, picked up a small suitcase which had been sitting in a ground-floor hallway for several hours. This activated a home-made bomb inside the suitcase and Abbott was killed by the huge explosion. The front doors of the building were blown off and a car parked outside was shunted across the street. While suspects were identified and interviewed, no-one was charged and Abbott’s death remains an unsolved crime. Though the precise motivation is unknown, forensic profiling suggested the perpetrator was highly likely to be a loner with explosives expertise who held a grudge against the union movement.

The bombing occurred within a context of fraught relationships between the government and unions. The decades-old arbitration system, which allowed unions to take an active role in pay negotiations, had broken down after a ‘nil wage order’ was instituted in 1968, meaning pay did not rise with inflation. In response, unions became more militant and the 1970s saw the most industrial disputes in the nation’s history, leading many New Zealanders to view unions unfavourably. At the same time the economy was foundering under the weight of global oil shocks, growing inflation, rising unemployment and unstable growth. In 1982 Prime Minister Robert Muldoon announced a price and wage freeze in an attempt to control inflation, a move strenuously opposed by unions, towards whom Muldoon was overtly hostile. Action against the wage freeze was organised from Wellington Trades Hall and on the day of the bombing, unionists met in the building, including president of the Wellington District Council of the FoL and noted union leader Pat Kelly. Whether this group was the intended target is unknown but Abbott himself is unlikely to have been singled out by the bomber. The attack was a significant event in the history of New Zealand politics and the union movement; there was a sense at the time of political innocence lost.

Recent History

The Labour Party victory in the 1984 general election did not benefit the union movement. The Labour government wound back financial support for industry and government departments and agencies involved in any sort of business activity were corporatised and in some cases privatised. Life was challenging for workers and unions and ‘for the first time in a century, many unions were suddenly on the defensive.’ When National regained power in 1991 compulsory unionism was ended and unions no longer had an exclusive right to represent members. Union membership declined dramatically and the number of unions was the lowest in over a century. However, while some unions moved out of Wellington Trades Hall, others remained and occupancy was not significantly affected by these challenges. Since at least the 1970s, social justice, peace and environmental organisations and voluntary groups and small businesses have found a home in the hall, supplementing the traditional union tenants, who continue to occupy the building. Wellington Trades Hall remains the original home of unions in the city.

Building Changes

In 1957 the original verandah, which was in two sections on either side of the office building’s main door, was replaced by a full length verandah. The following year the building’s central atrium was enclosed to make more floor space. The atrium’s glazed roof was covered over and new office partitions were installed on the first and second floors. The entrance foyer was repaired after the 1984 bombing.

The most dramatic change occurred in late 1988 when the assembly hall was demolished. The 1980s were a boom period for commercial development in the Wellington CBD and a new building had been planned for the site. This did not eventuate and the site was instead used for car parking. Uncertainty about the route of a proposed extension to the city’s urban motorway, known as the Inner City Bypass (ICB), halted maintenance on the office building in the 1990s and early 2000s. The ICB did not in the end directly affect Wellington Trades Hall and work proceeded, the most significant being the sealing of the roof with a waterproof membrane to prevent leaks in 2009.

In the 2010s there was a change of guard at the WTHI and members of the committee committed to the preservation of the building. A conservation plan was commissioned in 2010. Between 2017 and 2018 the building was earthquake strengthened, which entailed installing a ground beam, anchor piles, shear walls and collector beams. At the same time the ground floor lobby was restored, with new wall and floor tiles made to match the originals. In March 2018 the building was re-opened by the Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, who acknowledged its significance to the Aotearoa New Zealand labour movement past and present, and what it symbolised:

'Can I acknowledge what this place stands for, what this structure stands for, the support it gives the people within it, who continue to drive a movement that is as necessary today as it has ever been, as we continue to make sure we look after one another, we look after working people, we drive those values that are so important to us and the thing that we stand true to, the most important thing in this world continues to be, the people, the people, the people. '

And the people came to Wellington Trades Hall. In the words of the former secretary Lynette Stutz in 2009:

'Wellington Trades Hall … receives many visitors. They call in to simply look around, or to see (or re-visit) a building that is significant to themselves or members of their family and to relate stories of events that occurred there; to visit the site of many important events in the history of working people in this country.'

In line with this interest, aided by community fundraising, WTHI began creating a museum in the lobby in 2019.

Physical Description

Current Description

Wellington Trades Hall is located on the busy and densely built-up central Wellington arterial route Vivian Street (State Highway 1) and faces south. It sits between a one-storey Briscoes store and a seven-storey ca.1960s office building converted to apartments. Across the street are buildings of various ages and heights, including Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Architecture.


The reinforced concrete building with shear walls is largely neo-Classical in style but its restrained, limited ornamentation demonstrates a transition towards Stripped Classical. The original architectural drawings depict slightly more ornamentation than is evident on the present-day building, such as an acroterion at the apex of the parapet, simple mouldings on the entablature and elbows on the banded rustication above the top windows of the two wings. These details do not appear to have been executed.

The main Vivian Street elevation facing south comprises a middle section flanked by two wings. The main section has a plain entablature followed by two rows of five metal windows. The window rows are separated by rectangular spandrels with roundels in each corner; metal rails below each window on the bottom row are reminiscent of miniature balconies. Banded rustication on the flanking wings provides modest decorative differentiation with the middle section, which is plainly finished. The wings each have two windows similarly separated by spandrels. The main elevation’s most prominent design feature is the central entrance, a double-door and half-round transom window set in a semi-circular arch with a rusticated finish. In a rare touch of ornamental grandeur, the first floor window above the entrance is styled as an aedicule (see image below), with two Doric columns topped by a triangular pediment and decorative keystone. A crest at the base of the columns is inscribed with the year ‘1929’ and below this is the inscription ‘LABOR OMNIA VINCIT’ (‘work conquers all’), a common labour movement motto. On either side of the main entrance are five shops, three on the left and two on the right. Four out of the five have the original leadlight and plain windows and doors; the shop at the left end has a large single-pane picture window and no leadlights. A service entrance to the back of the building is at the right end. The original iron gates are in place, if a little battered.

The west, north and east elevations are plainly finished with no decoration but are generously fenestrated. The middle sections of the west and east elevations are inset, meaning the building is shaped like a capital H. The east elevation includes the service entrance to the back of the building. The one-storey caretaker’s cottage on the roof is clad in painted cement boards with timber battens and has a corrugated steel roof and timber casement windows. Next to the east elevation of the cottage is the glazed roof of the atrium, which is covered with corrugated steel.

The exterior is largely unmodified, aside from the removal of the connecting bridge between the office building and the demolished assembly hall, and changes to the shop front on the west side.


Most of the ground floor is taken up by the entrance lobby. Inside the original main entrance doors is the vestibule, which is separated from the main lobby by glazed timber double doors flanked by Doric columns and sidelights topped with a simple entablature and clerestory windows. The original foundation stone has been placed on the east side of the doors and on the west side is an 1893 memorial plaque to Samuel Parnell, founder of the eight-hour working day in Aotearoa New Zealand. Originally mounted on a fountain next to the 1893 Wellington public library (not extant), the plaque had various homes (including for a previous time, Wellington Trades Hall) until it was placed on the wall after the earthquake strengthening work of 2017-18.

The slate floor tiles in the lobby were laid and the timber wall panels installed after the 1984 bombing; the wall tiles are original aside from those in the vestibule which were laid following the earthquake strengthening work. The floor tiles in the vestibule are mostly original, with replicas directly inside the main doors.

The original SMS cage lift is next to the main stairwell on the west side and is fully functional. Opposite the lift is a small concierge room built after the 1984 bombing; this currently houses a television screen from which three labour movement documentaries can be watched from a bench made of timber salvaged after the bombing. The Ernie Abbott room is a large meeting space on the west side of the lobby. Through a door leading to the back of the building are five offices. The north stairwell was installed in 1991.

The first and second floors are similarly laid out, with 10 offices on the first floor and 11 on the second floor. Each floor (including the ground) has a bathroom with two toilets and strong rooms with Birmingham Safe Company door. Most of the offices and bathrooms have the original rimu doors and architraves. The shop interiors have been modified in keeping with an array of changing tenants and uses over time; they nevertheless largely maintain their original basic forms.


Wellington Trades Hall is the oldest surviving purpose-built trades hall building still used for its original function in Aotearoa New Zealand. The 1912 Auckland Trades Hall at 157 Hobson Street was sold in 1971 and is now part of Auckland City Hotel. A new trades hall was built in 1971 at 147-153 Great North Road and still accommodates union offices.

Neither of Christchurch’s first two and Dunedin’s one purpose-built trades halls has survived. As an operational trades hall where the business of unions is still carried out, Wellington Trades Hall is particularly well placed to represent the union movement, its members and officials, and the notable events of nationwide significance in its history.

Miners’ halls were the social heart of mining settlements but many have been demolished. A building of directly comparable significance is the 1937 Runanga Miners’ Hall (Former) (List No. 9613, Category 1), a once fairly common type of union movement-related building that is now rare. It was used as a factory building from the 1960s before becoming a community hall in the 1980s. It closed in 2012 and restoration work commenced in 2020 with a view to the building being reopened to the public. Runanga Miners’ Hall (Former) has a similarly close affiliation with the Labour Party and the national union movement to Wellington Trades Hall.

Another survivor is the 1886 Miners’ Union Hall (Former) (List No. 4653, Category 2) in Thames. This is an example of a once typical and regionally-significant miners’ hall and is now used for commercial purposes.

Wellington Trades Hall compares well with other places associated with public movements for social change. Dunedin’s Temperance Hall (Former), (List No. 9709, Category 1) opened in 1874 and was a nationally significant centre of temperance movement activity for the first 40 years of its existence, before being used for commercial purposes and subsequently much altered.

Another Dunedin place, Otago Pioneer Women’s Memorial Association Building (List No. 9725, Category 1) constructed in 1909, became the headquarters of this women’s organisation in 1942 and while it is no longer associated with the organisation, it has been used by many women’s groups over time as a meeting and social space. Because Wellington Trades Hall is largely intact and still used for its original purpose, it has a very good ability to represent its particular social movement.

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1929 -

1927 -

1957 -
verandah replaced

1958 -
atrium covered over and converted to office space

2009 -
roof sealed

Structural upgrade
2017 - 2018
earthquake strengthening and restoration of lobby

2017 - 2018
earthquake strengthening and restoration of lobby

Construction Details

Concrete, steel, timber.

Public NZAA Number


Completion Date

25th November 2020

Report Written By

Kerryn Pollock

Information Sources

Cranko Architects, 2010

Cranko Architects, ‘Trades Hall Conservation Plan’, July 2010.

Grouden, 2018

Grouden, Victoria, ‘Wellington Trades Hall 124 Vivian Street, Te Aro, Wellington, Part NZAA Site R27/599: Archaeological Monitoring Report. Prepared for Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga on behalf of Wellington Trades Hall Incorporated in fulfilment of NZHPT Authority 2018/334’, 2018.

Olssen, 2010

Olssen, Erik, 'Unions and employee organisations', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, 2010 http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/unions-and-employee-organisations.

Other Information

A fully referenced New Zealand Heritage List report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.


Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero 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.

Archaeological sites are protected by the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014, regardless of whether they are entered on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero or not. Archaeological sites include ‘places associated with pre-1900 human activity, where there may be evidence relating to the history of New Zealand’. This List entry report should not be read as a statement on whether or not the archaeological provisions of the Act apply to the property (s) concerned. Please contact your local Heritage New Zealand office for archaeological advice.