Health Camp Rotunda Gets New Life

Otaki  beach’s distinctive health camp rotunda, a Category One historic building,  may get a new life.

Otaki resident and camp historian Di Buchan is heading a campaign to save the rotunda, at the country’s first health camp site.

The building has been under Department of Conservation Management since 1989, when the department itself was formed out of a number of existing government organisations.

Building deteriorated

But in recent years its condition has deteriorated with DOC taking steps to stop water coming in through the roof from rotting the boards.

The rotunda was originally one of a pair in Rotorua, designed for King George V Hospital to provide care for wounded and shell-shocked servicemen.

It stood on Rotorua’s Pukeroa Hill, given as a hospital site by Ngati Whakaue in 1880.

The two linked octagonal wards were encircled by windows. Concentric circles surrounded central nursing stations .

When Otaki local businessman Byron Brown donated land for the country’s first health camp, the rotundas were dismantled, taken to Otaki and rebuilt as separate boys’ and girls’ dormitories.

War casualty patients

From 1941 to 1944 the camp housed long-stay patients from Wellington hospital in order to make space for war casualties.

The east rotunda was removed in 1963-64 because of rebuilding.

The second rotunda became a recreation space until 1999 when maintenance costs forced its closure.

The east rotunda was removed in 1963-64 because of rebuilding. The second rotunda became a recreation space until 1999 when maintenance costs forced its closure.

DOC”s Jack Stace says the department has been talking with Heritage NZ about the future of the building. 

Rotuda — roof of rostrum

He says nothing’s finally decided yet about whether the building will go through the crown disposal process.

It would then come under the control of another government department, Land Information New Zealand. 

It could ultimately be land-banked as part of Treaty of Waitangi settlements.

Sun,sea and Sustenance

Di Buchan who chairs the Trust, Friends of the Otaki Rotunda wrote a book about the health camp: Sun, Sea and Sustenance, the story of the Otaki Children’s Health Camp.

And the deputy chair is leading historian and part-time Otaki resident Jock Philips.

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