Housing the Prime Minister

Page 4 – Vogel House and Premier House

Vogel House

In 1976 New Zealand regained an official home for its prime minister for the first time in 40 years. Ten years earlier, Jocelyn Vogel had given Vogel House in Lower Hutt to the Crown to mark 100 years of Parliament in Wellington. Designed in 1933 by Helmore and Cotterill, it was one of the Hutt Valley’s last large houses designed for a family and domestic staff.

Prime Minister Robert Muldoon rushed to refurbish Vogel House in time for a dinner for the visiting Queen Elizabeth II in February 1977. He was our first modern leader able to offer VIPs proper hospitality.

David Lange, who succeeded Muldoon in 1984, never liked Vogel House and kept his family in Auckland. He ‘camped’ in a tiny first floor apartment in the house, moaning about the staff folding the edge of the toilet paper in neat triangles, hotel-style. Finding it too far from the Beehive, he saw out his term as prime minister in a flat near Parliament.

Vogel House remains a ministerial house. In 2008 the governor-general moved into ‘Government House Vogel’ for four years while Government House Wellington was restored.

Tinakori Street becomes Premier House

After Michael Joseph Savage rejected Tinakori Street, it became ‘the murder house’, a children’s dental clinic. The Public Works Department raised seedlings at the front of the grounds. In 1977 the dental nurses moved out, leaving the property empty. In the early to mid-1980s the Ministry of Works repiled the building and fitted sprinklers, but it remained underutilised. Some wanted to redevelop the site, but the Thorndon Society and the Historic Places Trust defended its heritage qualities. It is a Category I historic place on the Trust register.

In the late 1980s, Minister of Internal Affairs Michael Bassett decided to restore 260 Tinakori Road as an official prime ministerial residence. The conservation of Premier House, as they renamed it, was a 1990 Sesquicentennial project. That year Geoffrey Palmer and his wife, Margaret, became its first official residents.

Premier House has housed every subsequent prime minister. Some made it a family home, but Helen Clark and John Key kept their families in Auckland, using Premier House as a workday squat. ‘There’s a little corner which has the bedroom and the bathroom, and … I go into the bedroom somewhere around midnight or later,’ Clark said in 2002. ‘The alarm goes in the morning, I wander along to the kitchen, I turn on the jug and make a cup of tea. Then I’m out of there.’

Nevertheless, Premier House hosts VIPs, such as Prince William, who attended a barbecue there in 2010. It is also used by politicians and officials for meetings and is the venue for events such as awards ceremonies. Premier House was one of the few Crown-owned ministerial houses retained by the government recently after it reformed ministerial expenses, terminated many leases and put ministers on to flat allowances to cover their Wellington expenses.

How to cite this page

'Vogel House and Premier House', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/prime-ministers-houses/vogel-house-premier-house, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 22-Sep-2014