Seaview Asylum

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The Seaview Asylum (often: Seaview Lunatic Asylum, Seaview Psychiatric Hospital or Hokitika Lunatic Asylum)[1] was a psychiatric hospital located to the north of Hokitika, in the West Coast Region of New Zealand's South Island. Once the town's biggest employer,[2] the hospital was staffed by a superintendent, matron, attendants, and a labourer.[3] A comprehensive history of the hospital, Sitivation 125: A History of Seaview Hospital, Hokitika and West Coast Mental Health Services, was written in 1997 by Warwick Brunton,[4] now an Associate Dean at the University of Otago.[5]


Founded in 1872 by the Provincial Government, John Downey was promoted to Superintendent in 1904, and his wife served as matron.[3] In the same year, Dr Duncan MacGregor, Inspector-General of Hospitals and Asylums, authorised the villa hospital pattern of development at Seaview Hospital.[6] Three units were closed in the 1990s, as well as the nursing school in 1992. By 2002, the hospital board sold the asylum to a property developer.

In 1955, Seaview peaked with 549 patients.[7] By 1996, there were 100, and when the facility closed in 2009, it was down to 22.[2]

Since the facility has been closed it has been used on numerous occasions by the New Zealand Military to stage urban warfare, search and rescue and public disorder exercises.


Located on a government reserve, the land was terraced and consisted of approximately 150 acres (61 ha). The major buildings included dormitories, single rooms, dining rooms, and a padded cell. The Hokitika Gaol, containing 30 cells, was located on a terrace at Seaview.[8] The Seaview Lighthouse, a Category II registered Historic Place erected in 1879, was later used as an observation tower by the hospital.[9]

The land is now sparsely populated and many of the buildings are falling into disrepair, the swimming pool and tennis courts are abandoned but still retain key features such as the nets and diving boards.

The through road although unmaintained is still passable from both main entrances.


  1. ^ "Mental Health". Archives New Zealand. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Greymouth unit open". The Press. 1 January 2009. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  3. ^ a b "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand - Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts - Charitable Institutions". Victoria - University of Wellington. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  4. ^ Brunton, Warwick; Seaview Hospital 125th Jubilee Committee (1 June 1997). Sitivation 125: A History of Seaview Hospital, Hokitika and West Coast Mental Health Services. Craig Printing. ISBN 978-0-473-05012-2. Retrieved 22 August 2011. 
  5. ^ "Health Sciences Division Administration". University of Otago. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  6. ^ "Medical Services - Hospitals - Mental". Ministry for Culture and Heritage / Te Manatū Taonga. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Seaview's days numbered" (PDF). Greymouth Star. 17 August 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 March 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  8. ^ "The Cyclopedia of New Zealand - Nelson, Marlborough & Westland Provincial Districts - Police Department". Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Wilson, Pam (8 September 2004). "Seaview Lighthouse". New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga. Retrieved 23 August 2011.