Ministry of Works and Development

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The New Zealand Ministry of Works and Development, formerly the Department of Public Works and often referred to as the Public Works Department or PWD, was founded in 1876 and disestablished and privatised in 1988. The Ministry had its own Cabinet-level responsible minister, the Minister of Works or Minister of Public Works.

Structure and operations[edit]

The former Ministry of Works Building in Napier, built in 1938 in Art Deco and Stripped Classical style[1]

The Head Office of the Ministry was in the Vogel Building in Wellington, named after former Premier Sir Julius Vogel, who helped create the Public Works Department during his term in office, through the Immigration and Public Works Act 1870.[2] This building held the Vogel Computer, one of the largest in New Zealand and used by several government departments for engineering work. The Ministry moved to the Vogel Building in about 1965 from the Old Government Building on Lambton Quay.

The ministry was renamed the Ministry of Works on 16 March 1943 under the Ministry of Works Act. This was to reflect the extended wartime functions, when the Minister explained it was, "to ensure that, whilst the building and constructional potential of the country is limited by war and immediate post-war conditions, it is assembled and utilized in the most efficient manner from the point of view of the national interest".[3]

In 1944 the ministry was involved in the "great furniture scandal" when asked to order items of furniture for the new Legation in Moscow, to be headed by Charles Boswell. The list of items to be shipped from New Zealand to Moscow (via Tehran and Central Asia) included 40 armchairs, 10 couches and a billiard table plus palm stands! Apparently made after looking at furniture in Government House and ministerial houses, the order could have seated almost the entire House of Representatives; it was cancelled by Prime Minister Peter Fraser.[4]

During the latter years of the Ministry there were seven District Offices (Auckland, Hamilton, Wanganui, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) each headed by a District Commissioner of Works. In each District there were a number of Residency Offices (headed by a Resident Engineer) and each had a number of Depots. In addition there were Project Offices set up for a particular purpose, such as to build a power project, airport, tunnel or irrigation scheme.


While the policy functions were either disestablished or passed on to other Government departments, the commercial operations were set up as Works and Development Services Corporation (a state-owned enterprise) and the computing bureau and the buildings maintenance units were sold. The corporation had two main subsidiaries, Works Consultancy Services and Works Civil Construction. These were sold in 1996 and became Opus International Consultants and Works Infrastructure respectively, and the corporation was disestablished.

Major projects[edit]

Military equipment[edit]

Military installations[edit]



In the North Island, the Tongariro Power Scheme was completed between 1964 and 1983.



Under the Public Works Act 1876, the Department of Public Works was responsible for the operation of New Zealand's railway network from 1876 until 1880, when operations were transferred to the New Zealand Railways Department. This transfer did not end the PWD's railway operations, as it still operated railway lines when under construction, sometimes providing revenue services prior to the official transfer of the line to the Railways Department. The PWD owned its own locomotives and rolling stock, some second-hand from the Railways Department, and it operated some small railway lines that were never transferred to the Railways Department. One example is a 6.4 km branch line built in 1928 from near the terminus of the Railways Department's Kurow Branch to a hydro-electric dam project on the Waitaki River. This branch was not solely used to service the dam project; the PWD used its own rolling stock to provide a service for school children who attended school in Kurow, and occasionally special Railways Department trains operated on the line with PWD motive power, including a 1931 sightseeing excursion to view the under-construction dam. This line was removed in April 1937 as the PWD no longer required it.


Public Works Department Steam Locomotive Roster[edit]

Locomotive fleet numbers came into effect in the 1905 financial year. The block of numbers 501 to 550 were reserved by PWD, whilst numbers 1-500 and 551 onward were NZR locomotives. In later years, this agreement with New Zealand Railways Department was given flexibility. From World War 2, PWD used a new system of fleet numbers, with the year of introduction, followed by actual fleet number.

Key: In service On lease Out of service Preserved Overhaul or repair Scrapped
PWD Number NZR class
and number
Type Builder Introduced Withdrawn Notes
F36 0-6-0ST Neilson 1879 1886 Named "Edie Ochiltree". Ex NZR. Returned to NZR as F 13 1886-1964. Preserved at Ferrymead Railway
A 0-4-0T E.W Mills 1878 1884 Named "Opossum". From NZR. To industry 1884-1952. Preserved at Shantytown, New Zealand
471 0-4-4-0T Heisler 1947 1952 Heisler geared locomotive purchased from Taupo Totara Timber Co.. Scrapped.
472 2-4-4-2 ALCO 1947 1954 Mallet Compound. From Taupo Totara Timber Co.. Preserved at Glenbrook Vintage Railway
473 0-4-4-0T Heisler 1947 1952 Heisler geared locomotive purchased from Taupo Totara Timber Co.. Scrapped.
501 WF 2-6-4T A & G Price 1906 1909 Built to WF specification for PWD. Sold to NZR, 1909. Renmbered WF467
502 WF 2-6-4T A & G Price 1906 1909 Built to WF specification for PWD. Sold to NZR, 1909. Renmbered WF468
503 F 37 0-6-0ST Neilson 1879 1940 Formerly named "Rob Roy", by NZR.
504 E 175 0-4-4-0T Vulcan Foundry 1900 1917 Named "Josephine". Ex Dunedin and Port Chalmers Rly. EX NZR. Preserved at Otago Early Settlers Museum.
505 C 194 0-4-2ST Neilson 1893 1945 Sold to industry, 1945.
506 D 198 2-4-0T Neilson 1899 1930
507 L 207 2-4-0T Avonside 1901 1931 To industry 1931-1972. Preserved at Museum of Transport and Technology, Auckland.
508 L 208 2-4-0T Avonside 1901 1931 To industry 1931-1974. Preserved at Shantytown, New Zealand
509 L 219 2-4-0T Avonside 1903 1948 To industry 1948-1973. Preserved at Silver Stream Railway.
510 D 315 2-4-0T Scott Bros. 1901 1930 Ex New Zealand Midland Railway Company No.6
511 E 174 0-4-4-0T Avonside Engine Company 1900 circa 1908 Loaned from NZR. Written off 1899. Scrapped 1915.
512 C 132 0-4-2ST Dübs 1885 1927 Industrial use 1927-1971. Preserved at Silver Stream Railway.
513 D 196 2-4-0T Neilson 1914 1955
514 0-6-0ST Barclay 1915 Unknown Last used in the Tangarakau area. No details exist of subsequent sale or disposal.[5]
516 R 33 0-6-4T Avonside 1917 1932 Single Fairlie.
517 D 145 2-4-0T Neilson 1919 1955
518 0-4-0T Barclay 1919 1942 To industry 1942. Converted to Petrol-Mechanical 1960.
519 D 108 2-4-0T Scott Bros. 1920 1930
520 D 142 2-4-0T Scott Bros. 1920 Unknown
526 0-4-0ST Davenport 1921 1937 Bought new. To storage 1937-1999. Preserved at East Coast Museum of Technology, Gisborne, New Zealand.
527 0-4-0ST Davenport 1921 Unknown
528 0-4-0ST Davenport 1921 1935 To industry 1935-1945. On display at Bruce Bay.
529 0-4-0ST Davenport 1921 Unknown
531 0-4-0T Barclay 1921 1940 To NZR Ways and Works branch 1940-1954. Preserved Silver Stream Railway.
533 0-4-0T Barclay 1921 1943 Dumped at Oaro. Still extant.
534 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 Unknown Last recorded PWD use at Taneatua, 1927.
535 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1935 To industry 1935-1960. Preserved at Oamaru Steam and Rail.
536 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1947
537 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1950
538 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1941 Written off after collision with a truck near Oaro.
539 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1947 To New Zealand Army 1947-1962. Preserved Tokomaru Steam Museum
540 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 1951 To industry 1951-1960. Preserved at Ocean Beach Railway
541 0-4-0T Fowler 1921 Unknown Known to be used on Gisborne-Napier construction. Recorded at Wairoa, 1944, by A.J Wells (photographs).
542 Y 542 0-6-0T Hunslet 1923 1945 Bought new. To NZR 1945. To industry 1957-1985. Preserved Museum of Transport and Technology
543 Y 543 0-6-0T Hunslet 1923 1938 Bought new. To NZR 1938-1958
544 Y 544 0-6-0T Hunslet 1923 1945 Bought new. To NZR 1945-1957.
547 0-4-0T Fowler 1924 1930 Retained for parts. Scrapped 1939.
548 0-4-0T Fowler 1924 1936 Retained by PWD for parts. Preserved at McLeans Island by Canterbury Steam Preservation Society.
549 C 236 0-4-2ST Dübs 1925 1929 From NZR Maintenance Dept. Dumped at Te Kuha, 1929. Recovered 1995, preserved at Westport Railway Preservation Society.
550 0-4-0T Fowler 1925 Unknown
551 0-6-0T Barclay 1928 1951 Purchased from Wellington Farmers Meat Co 1921-1928. To Burkes Creek Colliery 1951-1962.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Napier City Council; Art Deco Trust (2004). Art Deco Inventory (PDF) (2nd ed.). pp. 78–80. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  2. ^ Taonga, New Zealand Ministry for Culture and Heritage Te Manatu. "8. – History of immigration – Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand". Retrieved 2016-01-16.
  3. ^ "AtoJs Online — Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives — 1946 Session I — D-03 MINISTRY OF WORKS REPORT OF THE COMMISSIONER OF WORKS FOR THE PERIOD ENDED 31st MARCH, 1946". p. 9. Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  4. ^ Hensley, Gerald (2009). Beyond the Battlefield: New Zealand and its Allies 1939-45. North Shore Auckland: Viking/Penguin. pp. 330, 331. ISBN 978-06-700-7404-4.
  5. ^ NZ Railway Observer Vol 314


  • By Design: A brief history of the Public Works Department Ministry of Works 1870-1970 by Rosslyn J. Noonan (1975, Crown Copyright)