The building opened in 1940 and served as Rotorua’s Police station until 1969.
The site on the northeast corner of the intersection of Haupapa and Tutanekai Streets was chosen by the Minister in Charge of Police, the Hon. Peter Fraser, for the new police station however this did not meet with general approval.
Although the residents of Rotorua agreed that a new station was necessary, there was a feeling that the site was too valuable commercially to be used for that purpose. Officialdom, however, remained unmoved and construction began in August 1939.
Under the specifications laid down by the Government Architect, JT Mair, the building was to be constructed with exterior walls 18 inches thick. Over 1000 cubic yards of concrete and 37 tons of reinforcing steel were used in the building, which was then covered with a veneer consisting of many thousands of bricks.
The entrance was flanked by two pillars supporting large electric lanterns, and above the doorway was the Royal Coat of Arms carved in stone by the well known sculptor. RO Gross of Auckland. An unusual feature was the plaster cast of Maori design, made in Rotorua, which ran around the outside of the station near the roof line.
Immediately inside the front door was a small lobby, with the public office to the left and the Sergeants office to the right.
A corridor gave access to three more offices, two large filing cabinets and the toilets. The rear entrance opened to a porch, and allowed access to wood and coal storage – the building had eight open fireplaces. The upper floor housed three more offices, a bedroom, a dining room and a locker room.
The interior was finished in coloured and white plaster, with molded ceilings. The only flaw commented on was that no provision was made for the construction of new and adequate cells. The station remained in use until 1969 when the Police moved to Fenton Street and the Probation Services moved into the Tutanekai Street building.
The inclusion of Maori motifs on the building gave it an individuality and significance seldom found in other buildings.
A great deal of thought went into choosing designs appropriate to the function of the building. They were not merely for adornment, but to interpret the role played by the Police in the wider community. Apparently the architecture of the new building was sufficiently different for it not to be immediately recognized as a Police Station.
“The new building produces a humorous side to life in the Thermal Regions, being the most imposing building in the main street, it had previously been mistaken by visitors as a Library, the Post Office, a Bank, the Tourist Office, and even one Sunday, as a place of worship. No one has yet mistaken it for a Pub” – New Zealand Police Journal, December 1940.
INFORMATION SOURCED FROM ‘POLICING TWO PEOPLES: A HISTORY OF POLICE IN THE BAY OF PLENTY 1867-1992,’ JINTY RORKE, TAURANGA POLICE, WELLINGTON 1993. SEE OUR CONTACT PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION.