Life in the 20th century

Page 5 – A home of one's own

Accommodation and shelter

New Zealanders have called many structures home. Some have been solid and permanent: kauri villas set in lawns and gardens, row houses on cramped Dunedin sections, sprawling state house communities in Otara. Many homes were wrought from the bush, especially in the early part of the century when raupo whare, canvas huts and roughly-hewn timber cottages dotted the landscape in remote or rural areas. For some, home was a room in an institution, a boarding house or an old people's home. Later in the century, retirement villages or rest homes catered for New Zealand's growing elderly population. Temporary shelter has also housed large numbers of New Zealanders at different times: tents in wartime, huts on tramping tracks, caravans in camping grounds, motels and hotels, transit camps, night shelters, time-share apartments.

Housing the people

People asleep in whare

Wharenui on marae had long sheltered Maori attending hui. Sleeping overnight in the meeting-house or wharenui was a time-honoured part of gathering together, or meeting to settle business or politics at hui, or spending time grieving after a death. Some marae also offered hospitality to travellers. After the 1940s urban marae appeared. This South Auckland marae provided overnight accommodation for a group who left the Tokelau Islands in 1966 to work at a forestry camp at Rotoehu in the Bay of Plenty.

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Changing styles

Pole house

New Zealand architects, influenced by both local and international architectural movements, experimented with a range of house styles throughout the century. A desire to blend in with the surrounding landscape and local environment prompted designs such as this pole house at Titirangi on the outskirts of Auckland, photographed in 1980. The house seems part of the bush, with heavy supporting beams resembling tree trunks and large windows minimising the barriers between occupants and the outside world.

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How to cite this page

'A home of one's own', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 20-Dec-2012