A Jewel for the City Centre


Auckland Mayor Phil Goff joined Waitematā  Local Board Chair Pippa Coom today to open the newly refurbished Ellen Melville Centre and upgraded Freyberg Square on High Street in Central Auckland.

The opening followed a 12-month redevelopment to support the central city’s growing resident population.

Mayor Phil Goff praised the development as superb: “We have created in Freyberg Place one of the best public open spaces in the CBD. It refurbishes and preserves the heritage of the building and creates a space where pedestrians, not vehicles, come first. It’s a place where people will be drawn to relax and enjoy.”

“With more than 200,000 people working and studying downtown and 45,000 living here, we need more world-class public spaces and facilities like this,” he said.

The Ellen Melville Centre is one of Auckland’s most iconic heritage buildings. Built in 1962, the centre was originally proposed by Ellen Melville, New Zealand’s first woman councillor, as a hall for use by women's societies and a memorial to the pioneer women of the province. 

The square is named after Lord Bernard Freyberg who served as Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946-1952 and whose statue has been relocated back to the site after being removed for the redesign.  

Local Board Chair Pippa Coom states, “We are proud to have made this project a priority in 2012. We now have over 45,000 residents who will be able to enjoy the centre as a community hub.

“We are also proud to honour the legacy of Ellen Melville by officially renaming the hall after her, and by naming each of the centre’s five rooms after significant New Zealand women.”

The project was led by Auckland Council's Development Programme Office and supported by the Waitematā Local Board and the Auckland City Centre Advisory Board. 

The total project budget of $11 million was funded through the Waitematā Local Board and City Centre Targeted Rate. The key consultants were Isthmus Group, Stevens Lawson Architects, MPM Projects and JFC Limited contractors working with Corbel Construction and the artists were John Reynolds, Lisa Reihana and Graham Tipene. The building artwork is fully funded through the regional public art budget.








Ellen Melville Centre

Built in 1962 and originally called the Pioneer Women’s and Ellen Melville Memorial Hall, the community centre was named after Eliza Ellen Melville – the first female city councillor in New Zealand and one of the country’s first women lawyers. While heritage aspects of the building have been preserved, the centre has a modern refurbishment including a new commercial grade kitchen, improved amenities, new audio visual system and café-style seating. 

The social and cultural history of the building is acknowledged in the respect shown for its mid-century heritage character, while the location of the site at the toe of an historic volcano is expressed in the terrace and step forms of the square.

In June the Waitematā Local Board approved the following names for each of the rooms within the Ellen Melville Centre: Helen Clark Room, Elizabeth Yates Room, Betty Wark Room, Marilyn Waring Room, Eleitino (Paddy) Walker Room; and endorsed the name of the upper floor ‘hall space’ in the Ellen Melville Centre to be officially called the Pioneer Women’s Hall. The names were recommended by the National Council of Women (NCW) of New Zealand (Auckland Branch).

The Tukutuku panels were presented to the New Zealand Pioneers’ and Descendants’ Club by Mr and Mrs Eruera Stirling for the opening of the Pioneer Women’s Hall in 1962.  The Ōrākei weavers restored the Tukutuku for the opening of the Ellen Melville Centre.


Freyberg Place

The site is named after Lord Bernard Freyberg who served in both World Wars One and Two and served as Governor-General of New Zealand from 1946-1952 and his statue has been relocated back to the site after being removed for the redesign.  

The upgraded Freyberg Place creates a healthy urban place for people to occupy and inhabit - a place that reflects its particular environment, geology and history.

It has undergone a complete reconstruction converting the existing area into a shared space for pedestrians and vehicles.  The area has been transformed with an elaborate series of cascading terraces stepped down the slope and an eye-catching water feature, in addition to new granite paving, street furniture and landscaping. The large transplanted Pohutakawa tree and Nikau palms form an integral part of the design. 

Isthmus Group and Stevens Lawson Architects have collaborated with artist John Reynolds on the project.

Artwork - Justice: bronze sculpture floating above an exuberant abstract wall drawing, by artist Lisa Reihana.

Justice commemorates Ellen Melville - politician, women’s advocate and pioneer. The scales of justice make reference to her illustrious legal career of 37 years. The bronze forms the centrepiece of the façade; it's a strong, singular form with gentle curves. The whimsical abstract wall composition has a 50’s feel, taking its cue from the Parnell Baths mural by James Turkington.   Both the Parnell Baths and the Ellen Melville Hall were designed by council city architect Tibor Donner.


- Auckland Council