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Continuing Development


By 1912, the watershed absorbed 541 acres and the buildings and plantation 60 acres, and further land purchase was recommended to make the farm more sufficient. 1918 the hospital extended South with the purchase of 110 acres [part Sections 55 and 57] of the Mitchell property and a further 37 acres of Wall property in 1923. By 1925 the hospital had reached its maximum size of 1,139 acres.

Reforms in Acute Cure

The reforms of the 1920s had shown a growth in acute services for patients regarded as curable, but these had not been matched by programmes for long stay or chronic patients. In 1925 Dr Truby King was appointed to the position of Inspector General and made recommendations which took acute care closer to the community for the first time, by establishing psychiatric outpatient clinics in General Hospitals.

These reforms of the mid 1920s were significant moves to bring patients into hospital during the acute phase of their illness. However, mental hospitals remained the basis of psychiatric care. In 1926 five new villas were completed, 2 for females and children and 3 for males. In 1928 a new nurse’s home was built, a 2 story brick building containing over 100 rooms. Before this nurses had to sleep in the main building and around the wards.
From 1930 onward, the financial situation in the country was becoming acute, and only renovations and redecoration were carried out.


R W Medlicott (later to become Professor) joined the staff at Porirua hospital as medical officer in 1939 and later became senior medical officer. It was in this time that he was responsible for introducing electroconvulsive therapy, which was of considerable benefit to many patients. Following more than 30 years as head of Ashburn Hall in his retirement he worked as a forensic specialist at Porirua hospital and the southern North Island in the early 1980s. After his death some of his library was bequeathed to Porirua Hospital for its library. With the closure of that library the collection went to Wellington to the Medical School library.


In 26 June 1942 a severe earthquake damaged the Main Building and parts had to be evacuated. A few weeks later a second earthquake so affected the Main Building that it had to be evacuated completely. The hospital housed 1,447 patients at this time. 700 patients had to be transferred and as there was not sufficient space at other mental hospitals to accommodate all of them, 300 with staff were sent to the Chateau and 100 to the Wairakei Hotel which were requisitioned for the purpose. By April 1943 the Main Building was being demolished and work on constructing 11 new villas had begun, each with accommodation for 50 patients, and in addition there was to be an 80 bed ward.

New Developments in Treatment and Care

In December 1967 Porirua Hospital Farm was handed over to the Department of Lands and Survey.

During this period other changes were taking place in society. The establishment of the IHC (Intellectually Handicapped Children’s society) by parents of children with intellectual disability led to such children being cared for at home or in community based facilities instead of being admitted to mental hospitals.

Community care for other people with disabling conditions began to be developed and the late 1960s saw Porirua hospital establishing two community based hostels for people with chronic psychiatric disability. Domiciliary nurses and social workers assisted in placement and care of community based patients. An active rehabilitation service (including a training unit in the occupational therapy dept) was started about 1975 and resettlement into the community increased through the succeeding years leading to the closure of most hospital facilities for this group by the 1990s.

In 1970 one third of Porirua hospital patients were in geriatric wards many requiring heavy nursing care. The majority had been long stay residents but the hospital also accepted referrals from the region. In the mid 1970s a psychogeriatric assessment unit was established.

On 1 April 1972 Wellington Hospital Board assumed control of Porirua Hospital and it was integrated into the Board’s facilities. Outpatient and community facilities continued to expand. Wellington Hospital had long had a ward for treatment of people with mental illness and a closer relationship developed. In 1980 the Puketiro Centre was opened at Porirua providing a regional base for multi disciplinary services to children with developmental problems.

With planned resettlement most ‘longstay’ residents were moved into the community with supportive services and fewer were provided on site. Acute psychiatric services were provided through units and outpatients at Wellington, Hutt and Kenepuru hospitals. Most recently a regional forensic service has been established on the Porirua campus. It includes rehabilitation for people with chronic psychiatric disability.

F Ward Unfit for Patients

During 1977 the oldest surviving ward in the hospital, F ward was finally judged unfit for continued inpatient use and uneconomical to restore for such use. Instead it became used for occupational therapy, and as in-service training centre. In 1987 part of it was converted to a Museum housing memorabilia from the hospital as it was downsized. Thom van Arendonk, Director of Administration, was responsible for its establishment and the beginning of the collection. From 1987 to 2001 the rest of the block was used as offices for mental health administrative and liaison services and from 2001 to 2005 it was a centre for service coordination for community workers and administration staff. Over this period the fabric of the building suffered marked deterioration as no maintenance was done.

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