Building banks in Wellington

After the BNZ opened its doors in Auckland on 16 October 1861 no time was wasted in sending representatives to the principal centres to raise capital and open branches.

A local trustee W. B. Rhodes was advertising for temporary offices for the bank in Wellington as early as 10 October 1861.

The bank first opened in temporary offices on 15 January 1862 in Swinburne’s Steam Packet Hotel in Willis Street, then vacant, but not before a ‘brick fireproof strong room was added with two iron doors’. This site was later occupied by the Kings Chambers and then in 1984 was the same site of the newly built BNZ Center (now known as the State Insurance Tower).

In 1862 the BNZ purchased a triangular section no. 26 on reclaimed land with a frontage along Lambton and Custom House Quay. The architect was William Mason of Dunedin. The location of the entrance door was later moved due to high winds, this can be seen on the 1878 image.

In 1894 Wellington was to become the banks new head office. Nearby temporary offices were taken to accommodate the extra staff.

In 1899 the earlier bank and adjoining Brandon Building were demolished to be replaced with a larger building following the subsequent purchasing of an additional 4 sections of land. Lot 30, included the remains of Plimmer’s or Noah’s Ark. Plimmer's Ark was the remains of the ship Inconstant which was wrecked in Wellington Harbour and later used as a warehouse on the Wellington Shoreline before being incorporated as part of the Wellington Land reclamation project in the 1860s.

The 1901 building was designed by architect Thomas Turnbull the contractor being T. Carmichael. This iconic Wellington building is now known as The Old Bank Arcade. As the bank started to outgrow this building adjoining and adjacent buildings were also purchased.

In 1984 the BNZ Center was opened across the road. An underground tunnel linked the Old Bank and the New ‘Black Tower’. The BNZ Center was controversial in its construction having suffered major delays due to the Boiler workers strike. At the time of completion it was the tallest building in Wellington.

In 2009 BNZ moved out of the BNZ Center and leased a purpose-built office building, located on the Wellington waterfront. Owned by Center Port this building was a 5-star green building, later achieving 6 stars for the interior fitout. Referred to as ‘Harbour Quays’ this building housed 1500 BNZ staff. Following the November 2016 earthquake the building was demolished and BNZ staff re-located into temporary office sites around the Wellington CBD.

In 2023 a new building, built by Newcrest LP, will become the permanent home for Wellington staff. Located at 1 Whitmore Street, BNZ Place will feature a structural steel framework, base isolation and high energy efficiency design.

Visit this story on the timeline
Wellington 1863 2 resized

Bank of New Zealand first Wellington building - 1863

Wellington 1863 taken 1878 2 resized

First Wellington Building built in 1863, photo taken 1878 - 1878

BNZ building taken from Willis street c1970

1901 Wellington Head Office, photograph taken c1970 - 1901

BNZ Center from Lambton Quay 1986 7 resized

BNZ Center 1 Willis Street photograph taken c1986 - 1984

BNZ80 copy 150 res

BNZ Harbour Quays building 2009 - 2009