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Hanmer Springs News

Hanmer Springs Queen Mary Hospital

The new Zealand Prime Minister has announced that the significant heritage Queen Mary Hospital site at Hanmer Springs will be preserved in a transfer of land between government agencies.

“The ownership of Queen Mary Hospital will be transferred from the Canterbury District Health Board to the Department of Conservation,” the prime minister said.

"This is a significant move to protect, maintain and conserve the category 1 historic site on 5.6 hectares of land."

The three listed heritage buildings include the Nurses home (1929), the Chisolm Ward (1926) for female patients and the original Queen Mary Hospital (1916) for wounded soldiers, known as the Military or Soldiers Block.

Hanmer Springs is well-known for its association with health and well-being mainly due to the therapeutic properties of its thermal pools.

Queen Mary Hospital, sited at Hanmer Springs, has an important place in the history of New Zealand’s health care. It was regarded as a key military hospital for returned soldiers from World War 1 and World War 2 and is the only intact example of its type of military design used for hospitals in New Zealand during World War 1.

"The Hurunui District Council will be looking at new ways to utilise these heritage buildings while retaining the character and history of the buildings,” the government said.

In an associated announcement today, the government also announced a series of public events will be held to mark the 90th anniversary of the Armistice, on November 11 2008.


The Queen Mary Hospital was designed by Hoggard, Prouse and Gummer. The design with its two octagonal wings connected by a large hall allowing for maximum sunshine and fresh air is thought to be rather rare not only in New Zealand but internationally.

The land will be divided into heritage and non-heritage parcels with Hurunui District Council managing the portion of land containing the heritage buildings as a reserve for public use.

The registered Category One site of Queen Mary Hospital is made up of three buildings - the Soldiers’ Block, the Chisholm Ward and the Nurses’ Hostel which constitute the historic core of the site. The three buildings each have special architectural qualities and form an integrated group which demonstrate the hospital’s development.

Soldiers’ Block 1916
The Soldiers’ Block was built in 1916 to care for returned soldiers suffering shell shock and other war-related neuroses. By Easter 1917, the Soldiers’ Block housed nearly 100 men. From June 1919 until December 1921, 1,134 soldiers and ex-soldiers were treated for functional nervous disorders. The Soldiers’ Block is the only intact and complete example of this type of military design used for hospitals in New Zealand during World War One.

Chisholm Ward 1926
The Soldiers’ Block’s unique military design was improved upon ten years later by the similarly laid out Chisholm Ward, which illustrated contemporary trends in the choice of style for hospitals. It housed female patients.

Nurses Home 1929
The Nurses’ Home is representative of accommodation buildings constructed at the time and is one of a diminishing number of Nurses’ homes in the country.

Transfer of administration
In the early 1920s, the administration of the hospital was transferred to the Department of Health. In 1960, control of Queen Mary Hospital was given to the Mental Hygiene division. From being a specialist centre for the treatment of functional nervous disorders and neurasthenia, the hospital began treating patients with alcohol and drug dependencies.

Heritage importance of the site
Queen Mary Hospital was a nationally recognised specialist mental health facility. The site’s significance comes from the buildings and grounds which emphasise a treatment ethos that recognises the importance of the therapeutic environment. The heritage landscape is considered the principal feature of the township of Hanmer Springs.

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