Historic site: Austrian State Houses

"History never looks like history when you are living through it."

- John W.Gardner.

 
Image of Titahi Bay housing development.
Titahi Bay housing development.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 8 F.3.58.
 

The Austrian State houses were built following a drastic housing shortage

The Austrian Houses, situated in the southern part of Titahi Bay, are so named as they were constructed by Austrian tradesmen from materials pre-cut in Austria, although designed in New Zealand. A total of 194 tradesmen came from Austria in the 1950s on 18 month contracts to complete the houses. Many of these tradesmen remained in the area after their contracts ended.

At this time there was a serious housing shortage in New Zealand. Many people were living in Transit Camps while on the wait list for a state house. To solve this problem the government at the time commissioned 1000 prefabricated state houses to be built, 500 in Auckland and 500 in Titahi Bay. The houses were commissioned from Thermal Insulation Limited in England and Thermobau Fertighäuser of Vienna, Austria. The houses in Auckland were constructed by the English company and the Titahi Bay houses were constructed by the Austrian company.

The Austrian Tradesmen

 

 
Image of Austrian tradesmen taking a break from building houses at Titahi Bay.
Austrian tradesmen taking a break from building houses at Titahi Bay.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 8 A226.
 

A special camp was constructed on Whanga Crescent for the tradesmen who started arriving in December 1952. The first kitset homes arrived in January 1953. Between January and July 1953 seven more groups of men arrived.

The Titahi Bay community helped the men settle into the area and language classes were offered in the evenings of Titahi Bay School. The Takapuwahia Marae organized many cultural and social evenings, while the cake shop run by Melvin and Eve Rickard in Bay Drive became a popular meeting place. The Austrians even convinced the Rickards to purchase a coffee grinder and percolator, one of the first coffee bars in Wellington to do so. Two of the Austrians married the Rickard's daughters.

The initial 18 month contract was extended to two years as there were some problems with the project. In the end the project was not the economic success the government intended, but it was a social success as only 5% of the tradesmen returned to Austria. In 2003 the Austrian Club of Wellington, many of whose members came to build the houses, celebrated their 50th anniversary.

The Houses today

 

 
Image of Neighbouring Austrian State houses.
Neighbouring Austrian State houses.
Photo from Pataka Museum Collection, at Porirua Library ref CD 8 A222.
 

Over the years many of the houses have become privately owned. While some have been modified, many more have retained their original features. They can be found on Te Pene Avenue, Whanga Crescent, View Road Mawhare, Opapa, Taupiri, Whenu, Waiuta, Te Puke, Arero, Piko, Rakihu, Pikarere, Matatiro, Tuki, Roiri and Arene Streets.

Continue to Fossil Forest or return to Titahi Bay.