In 1876 the New Zealand government donated 5 acres of land to the local council in Waipukurau, the largest town in the Hawkes Bay district, to construct Waipukurau Hospital. Construction began in 1878 and it was fully completed by 1879. The first patients were admitted later that same year. In 1879 the hospital consisted of two separate wings, to provide wards for both male and female patients. In the late 1800’s the country’s hospital report suggested that:
‘the hospital occupies a beautiful site a little distance from the town. The reserve is about 5 acres of good land, well laid out and surrounded by a belt of fine trees. A considerable portion is cultivated as a kitchen garden and orchard. The building contains a female ward with five beds; a small isolating male ward with three beds; and two large male wards, one of which contains five beds. In addition, there are a convenient dispensary, a committee room, a dining room for convalescent patients, a handsome well furnished kitchen and three rooms for resident staff’.
In 1890 the hospital underwent its first major renovation with the construction of an additional female ward. In the following years the hospital grew steadily as a nurses’ cottage was built to house increasing staff numbers. In 1919 an infectious disease annexe was built a short distance from the main hospital building, and was used until 1957 when it closed owing to a lack of staff. It was re-opened again in 1962 as geriatric unit. The main administration block was erected in 1927, allowing the old administration offices to be converted into a children’s ward to supplement space being used in the original 1800’s building. Further key additions were included in 1935, as an outpatients’ wing and a ‘modern’ operating theatre block were constructed. The medical administration and outpatients’ block was later extended in 1942, and extra ground was made available for another new ward, a laboratory and clinics for x-ray and physiotherapy.
By the mid 1950s a new rebuilding programme was initiated; the TB annexe which was built after the First World war was sold to make room for a large development plan, which included a laundry area, extensions to the main kitchen block with provision of male and female dining-rooms, new male staff living quarters, a water reservoir, new boiler-house, ambulance garages, workshops and an incinerator. These were fully completed by 1956. Over the next few years construction and development slowed for a period; until the 1960’s when a new ward block and mortuary were opened in 1963, and an operating theatre in 1964. Voluntary contributions also helped to build a swimming pool for staff in 1964. Finally, further additions to the maternity annexe were included in 1966.
Waipukurau Hospital closed its doors in 1999 since the area was deemed too small to merit having such a large hospital. Although Waipukurau Hospital had been successfully expanded since the late 1800’s, it failed to keep up with other major city developments in other important locations across the North Island. Immediately after its closure the hospital was bought by two brothers from Auckland, however, it is reported that in the days after the purchase ‘vandalism and stealing began with the disappearance of the copper down pipes and gutters. Since then there has been a steady decline in the buildings, despite the owners’ efforts to renovate’.
More recently, in 2011, John Bieniowski, an engineer by trade, bought the site, despite the destruction and rapid deterioration, when it was listed on an auction website. Without travelling to view the property, Mr Bieniowski paid $180,000 for the fire-ravaged hospital (the original and unscathed site sold for $200,000 in 1999). It is rumoured that he is now at a loss as to what he should do with it because did not realise how significant the overall damage was, and the buildings are not insured. Since the purchase there have been a number of fires throughout the site and parts have fallen into a state of disrepair.
Our Version of Events
On our way up the coast of the North Island, New Zealand we made a late night stop off near Waipukurau, to grab a little bit of sleep before the next day’s exploring ensued. We had a brief look around the site quite late on and decided to return the next morning to have a better look around. The next day we soon discovered that access wasn’t particularly problematic, and within minutes we were quite happily exploring the derelict remains of Waipukurau Hospital. For the most part, the building is stripped, burnt out and dilapidated, but there are a few odd bits and pieces here and there which are fairly photogenic. For most of the explore I couldn’t help but feel as though I was wandering through part of a war-torn city; so in that sense it was fairly unique.
Explored with Nillskill and Gunner.