There’s been a lot about this house in the news recently – both the paper kind of news, and the TV kind of news. May as well get my news from proper news sources while they exist, seeing as it sounds like soon nothing is going to exist in the news world. What will we do when 3News and OneNews are ditched, and Stuff has gone bust again? Its hard enough to even buy a paper these days, as increasingly nowhere sells them. What do we do in the future – just make up our own news as we go? Seems to be working fine for some people!

Anyway, THIS is the house in question:

Premier House – a house for a Premier? Does it have ANY charm at all? Or is it all just boring and drab?

Good grief! What an abortion of still-born roof forms! I actually don’t blame Luxon for not wanting to be associated with that. It is all rather bitsy, isn’t it? The PM is claiming that he can’t live there as it needs doing up, and none of the rest of us have seen it, so we can’t tell if he is lying, or just being snooty. Ardern lived there just a couple of years ago – so therefore it surely can’t be all that bad. Or perhaps she was prepared to have slightly lower standards? Perhaps better than a homely residence in AKL ? (I went past her Auckland house a few years back – indistinguishable from others nearby ie it did not stand out).

Ardern’s house bought in 2018 somewhere in Auckland – possibly Sandringham?

I’ve not seen Luxon’s house(s) in Auckland or his apartment here in the capital – no idea whether he has a tasteful residence or not. He shows no sign of having any shred of personality, same bland suits and bland shirts every day. No idea if he even has a car – although we all know what his wife’s car is. I suspect that he does not walk the streets, but instead gets chauffered everywhere. Is this the blandest PM we’ve even had? He doesn’t even have a hairstyle. Just a head.

Tasteful, minimal, if a little bland. So is the house. No idea where it is.

Perhaps the problem with the house is that the furnishings simply have too much personality? I mean, there are undoubtedly pictures on the wall, possibly even some historical items? Maybe even pattered wall paper? And curtains! Maybe even ruched curtains! Does anyone even still worry about the colour of the curtains? Surely not. I am, however, reminded that the first thing that Trump did when he came into office was to remove Obama’s red curtains….

He was such a good President, says the whole world, except for dum-ass American republicans

…and substitute gold curtains – typical monied bad taste bling. Interestingly though, Biden has not removed the gold ones – they’ll be there to welcome Trump again when he gets back in….. Shudder….. Let’s not go there, just yet.

Clearly from the last Rump administration – all these people have now left / been sacked / abandoned ship

The figure that is being bandied about is a potential do-up cost of $3 million, which to be honest could build somewhere between 3 to 6 actual new entire whole houses. Seems a bit excessive to me – was it really sooooo unliveable for Luxon? It is a large house – evidently all corporate / governmental downstairs, and then an “apartment” for the Prime Minister upstairs, which has evidently not yet been done up, and according to Luxon, is a little worse for wear. New chandaliers though!

Me old mate Geoffrey when he lived there with Mrs P – probably has changed a bit since then

Clearly then, Jacinda and Clarke must have had some real cracking parties there over the years, perhaps even Clarke brought some fish back there to gut or something, and the place still smells of his classic seafood gumbo? Certainly something smells fishy.

More recently – no, it doesn’t really look like much has changed. Chairs are comfortable but hideous gingham.

Perhaps the simplest thing might be to just tear it down and build anew – although, it is a character building and there is some heritage to it, surely? What about the history of the place? Wikipedia tells me (and the rest of the world) that “The original house was built in the early days of the New Zealand colony in 1843 for Wellington’s first Mayor, George Hunter,” and that it “has been greatly expanded over the years”. After Hunter came a Mr Collins, who expanded it a little, then “The house was bought from Richard Collins in early March 1865 to become the official residence of the nation’s Premier.” And then it was expanded again.

The original house, possibly? when expanded by Collins. Photo allegedly from 1860

In 1873, Julius Vogel “turned it into an eight-bedroom mansion complete with conservatory and ballroom” and also installed the first tennis courts in the country. Hmmm. Interesting. Nothing much about the original architect. Anyone know the history?

Heritage NZ pic of the house, way back when…

Heritage NZ says the original house was built by Nathaniel Levin (the owner) in 1843 and then added on to in later years by others, including architect William Henry Clayton (in 1872). Interestingly, Clayton was born in Tasmania, and “in 1864 he entered partnership with William Mason. Mason and Clayton were responsible for some important buildings in Dunedin including All Saints Church (1865) and The Exchange (former Post Office) (1865) as well as the Colonial Museum, Wellington (1865). These were two of the most prominent architects of their day in New Zealand. In 1869 Clayton became the first and only Colonial Architect and was responsible for the design of Post and Telegraph offices, courthouses, customhouses, Government department offices and ministerial residences. His acknowledged masterpiece is Government Buildings, Wellington (1876).” No real claim to fame here for Clayton (the architect you’re having when you are not having an architect, perhaps?), as he tasked with keeping it relatively low key, a task he certainly excelled at. Interestingly, “Premier Sir Julius Vogel and his wife Mary took up residence in 1872. … Mary Vogel’s father, W.H. Clayton, Colonial Architect, is credited with the extensive alterations, costing £2885, that were completed in 1873. Only the southern wing of the original house was retained.” Jobs for the boys back then!

Complete with rambling additions, looking fairly worse for wear. Also, note how much the trees have grown

Wiki goes on: “In 1935 Michael Joseph Savage decided to instead live in Seddon’s former residence at 47 Molesworth Street,” and “Premier House was turned into a school for dental nurses and a children’s dental clinic, known to all as “the murder house”.” Apparently it was huge – 40 to 50 dentist chairs, lots of training going on, perhaps that is the reason for all those east-facing windows in those pictures above? Did they not use the Dental School in Willis Street, which looks to have been built in the 30s? Maybe it was something else after all the dentistry? “After many years of institutional use, by the 1980s the building had fallen into disrepair.” But then “the building received a Category 1 historic place ranking from 1988 and was listed as a heritage place in the Wellington City District Plan”. After that “The restoration was undertaken by Auckland’s Grant Group Architects and L. T. McGuinness Construction between December 1989 and 1991. The internal walls were retained and all rooms and most passages were left in their original position. Fire sprinklers, central heating and air conditioning systems were installed along with a new hydraulic lift. The interior decoration carefully reproduces many 19th-century period features, while the overall design is modern. The decor includes a considerable collection of New Zealand art, both old and new.” It cost $3 million (renovation cost) at the time. So, is it really necessary to spend another $3m now, to do it up yet again?

Kerry and Key, back a few years ago, with tastefully bland curtains and obligatory flags

I know that Luxon has to be all about the “let’s save money” and “weren’t Labour extravagant fools” all the time, so he doesn’t want to be splashing out on anything (except where he has a personal entitlement to splash out on himself). But would’t it be a nice project to actually design a NEW home for our Prime Minister? One that would suit all sides of the political spectrum – whether Red, Blue, Green, Yellow, or Purple get in next time? I mean, you can’t even see it from the road – talk about shy and retiring! Should we be a little more proud and prominent about all this? OK – I mean, 10 Downing Street is modest to the point of ridiculous, and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is too much the other way – vast and showing off from may different directions, all the time. The White House is only a little bit older – about 40-50 years – than our Premier House, but is certainly a lot bigger ! And apparently the British burned the White House down in the War of Independence (oops!), so arguably our Premier house may even be older in parts… But what do you reckon? How about a new home – and what would that look like?

Postscript: What sort of a dwelling would befit a Prime Minister of Aotearoa? Something like a grand Kiwi home? A Lockwood perhaps? Or a leaky home, would that suit better? Would it have to have bicultural elements? Who even thinks that it should have any pakeha elements at all? Maybe it should be similar to the house that King Tuhatea lives in? Oh goodness me – what a project! How would we create a home that identifies with who we are, and what we aspire to? Part gilded mansion, part Comancheros gang-pad? Somewhere that looks as though it could switch to being a Dental School at a pinch? Somewhere more approachable might be a good start – without the 40 steps to climb to get into it in the first place may be a good first step? Your thoughts?