Built mostly of red brick in the Gothic-revival style, it was opened by the Governor of New Zealand, Lord Plunket, in 1904, but construction was not completed until 1906. Initially the building housed the entire university, but as staff and student numbers grew other buildings were added. After World War I, a stained-glass memorial window was added to the library in commemoration of staff and students who had died in the war. The Hunter Building gradually become dilapidated and an earthquake risk, and there were demolition plans. In 1981 the building was added to the Heritage New Zealand register as a Category 1 historic building. Public and campus pressure led to the building being saved from demolition. It has since been restored and earthquake-strengthened. The building now hosts various administrative offices and the university's council chamber, which occupies the old library.
Part of the memorial window in the former library, now the council chamber.