The History

The Dunedin Prison is registered as a Category 1 historic place under the Historic Places Act 1993 in view of, amongst other things:

  • its historical significance as the only surviving building in New Zealand, representing the Victorian courtyard prison and the extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand History.
  • its national historical significance through its location in one of New Zealand's most architecturally distinguished urban heritage precincts (Anzac Square).
  • its technological significance recognising the architectural and technical accomplishment of John Campbell (1857-1942) who designed the prison in what has been called the "Queen Anne" style as a courtyard prison, now unique in New Zealand.
  • its historical significance through its association with the criminal justice system in Dunedin, dating from its construction in 1895-98 to 2007 when it was decommissioned.
  • its importance as a rare international example of a purpose built Victorian courtyard style prison.

NZHPT considers and is satisfied that the building should be protected, conserved and maintained as an historic place. For more historical information, click here to read the Register Online on the NZ Historic Places Trust website.



Showing the many phases of use of the prison:

1896-1915 - new prison opened with cells for 52 men and 20 women

1915- 1959 - Police move in to administration block and look after prisoners as well as their own duties

1959- 1974 - 34 female prisoners are accommodated, segregated from men

1975-1994 - reopened catering for 59 male inmates

1994-2000 - Police move out to their new premises and prison reverts to original purpose as a men only facility

2007 - prison decommissioned and Corrections operation moved to Milburn

2011 - Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust formed to secure the prison for the nation

2012 - Dunedin Prison Charitable Trust raises $50,000 to allow it to purchase the property from Ngai Tahu Property Ltd

2014 - Conservation Plan completed

2015 - Fund-raising begins to allow us to restore the facades and repair part of the slate roof, estimated at $500,000.


The Vision

The Dunedin Prison Trust was formed in August 2012 by five local heritage enthusiasts with the aims:

  • Securing the control and management of the Dunedin Prison.
  • Conserving, restoring, protecting, and making it available to the New Zealand public as an historical showpiece as well as a venue for other appropriate community purposes.
  • Providing for its long term survival as a viable tourist attraction.

Our vision is to make it into a major tourist attraction for Dunedin. It is located in a unique heritage precinct consisting of the Dunedin Railway Station, Dunedin Law Courts, and Otago Settlers Museum. So it will become a major player in this precinct.

The history of the site encompasses male prison, women's prison, regional prison, police station, Department of Defence Administration, SIS Office, all ofd which have something to contribute to the tapestry of the building's history.

The long-term viability of the project has to be based on a commercial return being available on a continuing basis. Its ability to attract paying customers over the long term will be critical and the trustees of this venture are committed to this view.