With a $40 million refurbishment programme just completed, Government House is looking magnificent. Built in 1910, Government House is the official residence of the Governor General, the representative of Queen Elizabeth. The Conservation Project involved seismic strengthening, removing and replacing the roof, repainting, and upgrading the power, gas, water and telecommunication services. It was a makeover of epic proportions to our most nationally significant heritage building. Government House was holding Open Days over the weekend for the public, and we joined the crowds to see the result of the two year refurbishment programme.
There were plenty of staff to shepherd the queue through the security measures, and then it was “Welcome to Government House” by a dashing serviceman in blue uniform with gold braiding. Look at that nice smile - that was a warm welcome indeed!
The Ballroom looked magnificent with two Czech crystal chandeliers hanging from the plaster ceiling, and tables heaped with all sorts of glittering treasures which had been gifted over the years. There was a display under glass of medals and jewellery. This wonderful gold collar was crafted in 1997. It is “The New Zealand Order of Merit Collar”, and is worn by both the Queen and the Governor General, made with with gold koru motifs and enamelled discs. All these types of items are kept well protected under lock and key in the Beehive (Parliament Buildings), I was told.
The Ballroom curtains were sumptuous, made from a deep rich red brocade with a raised flocked self pattern, and held back with beautiful curtain ties. It was a look back in history when the new curtains were chosen, a staff member told me, as the replacements were replicas of what was hanging many years ago.
The new carpet in the Drawing Room was designed to suit the room and had a New Zealand theme with blue/green tones and a fern pattern. The patterned navy borders around the edge of the room added an extra attractive detail, and the drapes in this room were a deep navy taffeta, with gold cord tie backs.
Many years ago the Country Women's Institute took on the huge task of producing embroidered chair seats and backs. Thirty eight were stitched, from regions around the country. Most of these chairs are set around the State Dining Room, with several others dotted along the hallway. This one was done by the Wellington group.
I also came across some embroidered cushions featuring New Zealand native birds. There was a Tui sitting on a Kowhai branch, and a Yellow Eyed Penguin.
We were very impressed with what we saw on the Open Day. The refurbishments have taken two years to complete and Government House is now open once again for official business.