PHOTO: Wikimedia

The long-awaited release of a report on Premier House’s condition and future has unveiled several options for its refurbishment, one of which could cost up to $80 million.

Initiated by former Prime Minister Dame Jacinda Ardern in 2022, an independent Premier House Board was tasked with evaluating the property’s state and advising on its upkeep. Completed in September 2023, the board’s report has been made public by the Department of Internal Affairs due to widespread interest.

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Chaired by Lyn Provost, former controller and auditor-general, the board emphasized Premier House’s national significance as one of New Zealand’s historically important residential properties. However, it noted a lack of proper care and maintenance, risking the degradation of this heritage site.

Highlighting the importance of Premier House to New Zealand’s image and historical narrative, the report emphasized the need for urgent action to preserve its heritage value.

Premier House, Tinakori Road, Thorndon, circa 1880, taken by an unidentified photographer.

Premier House circa 1880. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

The report extensively delved into Premier House’s history, previous refurbishments, and assessments of its architecture and grounds. Findings indicated that Premier House does not adequately represent the stature of the prime minister and requires significant upgrades.

Specifically, the report highlighted issues such as the inadequate accessibility of the private apartment, the need for roof replacement, insufficient insulation, and outdated facilities.

While the board proposed various maintenance and refurbishment options, it recommended a comprehensive $33 million refurbishment plan as the optimal solution. This plan would address immediate heritage, seismic, and functional requirements.

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Alternative options, including phased refurbishments and long-term maintenance plans, were considered but deemed less viable due to their associated costs and potential risks of incomplete implementation.

Furthermore, the report suggested negotiating a heritage covenant with Heritage New Zealand to ensure ongoing protection for Premier House.

Despite being under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, the report proposed establishing an independent stewardship mechanism to depoliticize decisions regarding Premier House’s maintenance and funding.

Recent controversies surrounding Premier House, including maintenance issues and accommodation allowances for Luxon, have drawn public attention, highlighting the pressing need for action outlined in the report.