Remembering the Council's homes over the years.

Christchurch has seen many changes since it became New Zealand’s first City in July 1856 but none more so than what we have witnessed since September 2010. The Council has occupied a number of buildings over that time and this information was originally posted before Civic Offices in Hereford Street were officially opened, prior to the September 2010 earthquakes. The intention was to celebrate our overall achievements by looking back at a snippet of our past through the buildings occupied. The following buildings have been home to the Council since it was first established in 1862. Of the five buildings displayed only two remain: the current building the Council occupies on Hereford Street and the Municipal Chambers built in 1887, designed by Samuel Hurst Seager. This building has been severely damaged. Our shared past is now a firm reminder of what we’ve lost and what we have to rebuild.;

Dates Location
1862-1887 The Christchurch Land Office, Corner Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard
1887-1924 Municipal Chambers (built on the same site as the Christchurch Land Office, Corner Oxford Terrace and Worcester Boulevard)
1924-1980 The Canterbury Hall, Manchester Street (now known as The Civic)
1980-2010 The Civic Offices, Tuam Street (formerly known as Millers)
2010 to date New Civic on Hereford Street

The Christchurch Land Office

Christchurch land office

Christchurch Land Office, 1852. Artist unknown. Christchurch City Council Archives, CH 430 (Folder 26)

Christchurch was founded in 1850 by the arrival of about 800 settlers onboard the first ships organised by the Canterbury Association from England. For many of these early settlers they had never seen, let along been onboard, a ship. The route taken was the longest and most treacherous of any of the emigrant routes travelling through the Atlantic Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope – the south-west corner of the Cape Peninsula, South Africa – before turning eastward for New Zealand. The emigrant ships crossed the Indian Ocean and sailed below Australia before travelling up the east coast of the South Island to reach Canterbury. Those onboard suffered both the extreme heat of the tropics and the cold temperatures of the southern latitudes.

According to Morrison (1948:8) “The first impression of the majority was one of deep disillusionment as to this land of their dreams. They remained because they could not return….They laughed, a little ruefully perhaps, with Crosbie Ward and the rest of the Canterbury rhymer’s, and it was not long before they set to work to improve their depressing environment….Crosbie Ward wrote ….Oh! The town of Christchurch is an elegant mixture of roads and pasture and swamp and sand…”

Christchurch became New Zealand’s first city in 1856 and “…in its first stage as a town – some slight semblance of streets, scattered wooden houses and huts; the flat plain, in its primaeval state of tussock grass, forms its suburbs” (Morrison, 1948:15). The first meeting of the Christchurch Municipal Council was held on 3 March 1862 (later that year became the Christchurch City Council). Meetings were held in the first public building erected in Christchurch on the banks of the Avon River in Worchester Street. This had first been used as the Land Office in 1851 and was used for various purposes including government buildings, survey office, resident magistrate’s court, Supreme Court and library as well as municipal chambers.


Municipal Chambers

This is the only building that has been purpose built for the Christchurch City Council. Every other building that has housed the Council has been an existing building modified to suit the Council’s requirements. This building was designed by local architect Samuel Hurst Seager and was erected on the cleared site of the old Land Office. It was completed on 24 March 1887 and the first meeting took place 4 April 1887.

Read more about this building (external link) at the Christchurch City Libraries website.

Please note: this building still exists today, Our City O-Tautahi occupied the building until the Canterbury earthquakes. Even damaged it is a feature within the City for its stunning architectural features.

Our City O-Tautahi (the former Municipal Chambers, designed by local architect Samuel Hurst Seager) Our Scanned copy of Samuel Hurst Seager’s architectural plans for the Municipal Chambers, East Elevation 1886. Christchurch City Council Archives, Architectural Plans. Scanned copy of Samuel Hurst Seager’s architectural plans for the Municipal Chambers, Details of Eaves 1886. Christchurch City Council Archives, Architectural Plans. Scanned copy of Samuel Hurst Seager’s architectural plans for the Municipal Chambers, South Elevation 1886. Christchurch City Council Archives, Architectural Plans. Scanned copy of Samuel Hurst Seager’s architectural plans for the Municipal Chambers, East Elevation 1886. Christchurch City Council Archives, Architectural Plans.

The Canterbury Hall

By 1919, the Municipal Chambers had become too small and the Council began the search for a new home. In 1920 the Council purchased what remained of the Canterbury Hall Company on Manchester Street after fire gutted the building in 1917. The new offices were opened 1 September 1924 and the Council met for the first time a week later. This building, now demolished, served the Christchurch City Council and its staff for 56 years.

Read more about this building (external link) at the Christchurch City Libraries website.

Manchester Street Civic Offices front elevation, 1979. The Star Archives. This image is not to be reproduced without permission from The Star. Manchester Street Civic Offices main foyer, 1979. The Star newspaper. This image is not to be reproduced without permission from The Star. Manchester Street Civic Offices main foyer, 6 December 1941. The Star Archives. This image is not to be reproduced without permission from The Star. Manchester Street Civic Offices stairwell, 1979. The Star Archives. This image is not to be reproduced without permission from The Star. Manchester Street Civic Offices stairwell, 1979. The Star Archives. This image is not to be reproduced without permission from The Star.

The Civic Offices

The functions of the Council expanded after World War II with consequent increase in staff. Overflow offices were either bought or leased and by 1978 the staff occupied all or part of nine separate buildings. In 1979 the Council purchased the building, formerly the home of Millers, that was officially opened by the Duchess of Kent in December 1980. This building is now demolished.

Tuam Street Civic Offices front elevation, 1980. Main foyer of the Tuam Street Civic Offices shortly after its official opening, 1980. Main foyer of the Tuam Street Civic Offices shortly after its official opening, 1980 Note: the BNZ hexagonal table being used. This piece of furniture was recently conserved and is currently being used in the main reception area of the Archives Reading Room at Recall Main foyer of the Tuam Street Civic Offices shortly after its official opening, 1980 Note: the BNZ hexagonal table being used. This piece of furniture was recently conserved and is currently being used in the main reception area of the Archives Reading Room at Recall Christchurch City Council Chamber Ground Floor, Tuam Street 1980. Christchurch City Council Coat of Arms on display in the Council Chambers. This is still a feature in the Council Chambers.

New Civic

The seven-storey building was intended to house in the one location Council staff who were working from five locations within the Central Business District. This was to enable Council to improve the efficiency of its service delivery and strengthen the One Organisation approach. Following the earthquakes Council is once again in more than one location within the Central Business District, although it has not returned to as many as five.

The overall feeling of the working environment was light and spacious; the building having been awarded a 6 Green Star rating and a record 83 points, making it the greenest building in New Zealand. The new Civic Building is the first renovated building and only second building in New Zealand to achieve 6 Green Star.

A New Zealand-first innovation in the new Civic Building is the tri-generation plant. This will enable the new Civic Building to generate its own electricity, heating and cooling from a renewable source – biogas. This is piped from the Council's Burwood landfill site – and in future years from the City's Wastewater Treatment Plant – and converted into electricity. Heat from this process is used to both heat and then by a process of heat conversion, cool the building.