Government House plan honours Queen's 60 years
Work to transform a garage and squash court into a visitor centre and theatrette in honour of the Queen is under way.
A $500,000 refit of outbuildings at Newtown's Government House to create a visitor centre has begun, with workers rushing to meet a November deadline.
The Government-funded project is the final step in a $44 million bid to restore and earthquake-strengthen the historic house, built in 1910.
Government House official secretary Niels Holm said the project had a "very tight deadline", but "come what may" the refit of the old garage and squash court would be complete in time for a royal visit in November.
The Prince of Wales and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, will be visiting New Zealand as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations. The visitor centre would be named the Diamond Jubilee Visitor Centre in honour of the Queen's 60-year reign, Mr Holm said.
Royal visits to Government House have not always gone smoothly. When Prince Andrew stayed in a guest suite in 2007, he subsequently emailed to ask if anyone had noticed the bathroom had peeling tiles.
Plans for the centre show that three former storage areas will be converted into education and exhibit spaces, and the squash court, thought to be one of New Zealand's oldest, will become a theatrette for audiovisual displays. The exact exhibition layout and tour details were still being developed, but visitors would go through exhibitions and an audiovisual display before touring the main house. School groups would then return to the education part of the visitor centre, where activities could take place, a plan outline lodged with the Wellington City Council said.
Mr Holm said the initial focus of the centre would be school groups, with an aim to educate children about the history and purpose of the governor-general in New Zealand.
Many children were taught about Parliament, but were unaware what the governor-general did. "The exciting thing is being able to explain the institution to the next generation of young people . . . to get an equivalent understanding of where that office fits in."
Given the popularity of open days at the house in the past, chances to open the centre to the wider public would be explored.
"It's long been an ambition to provide access in a more comprehensive way."
Exact details for the tours were being finalised as the buildings were being fitted out, including introducing insulation and heating.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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