Chronology of Events

1844 The building of a pauper ‘lunatic’ asylum attached to the Wellington jail.
1845 The Lunatics Ordinance was the first legislation concerned with the mentally ill in New Zealand.
1852 The Constitution Act placed the responsibility for health services on the Provincial Governments.
1853 The Karori Asylum to care for the mentally ill opened on 1 January based on ‘moral management’.
1868 Official Visitors were first appointed to act as independent critics of asylums.
1876 Parliamentary inquiry into the lunatic asylums of the colony.
1873 Mount View Asylum, Wellington, opened on 22 May.
1874 Following the abolition of the Provincial Government in 1876, the social services of the colony were reorganized and the Lunacy Department was formed as a department of state which brought the asylums under central control.
1875 Dr W.A. Skae appointed as the first Inspector of Lunatic Asylums for the Colony of New Zealand. His appointment was a turning point in the development of mental health policy in New Zealand.
1881 Royal Commission to investigate charges of unnecessary violence against patients at Mount View Asylum.
1884 Purchase begins of land at Porirua for a Hospital Farm for ‘work therapy’.
1887 H Ward, the first ward at Porirua Hospital is opened to relieve overcrowding at Mount View Asylum.
1891 Construction begins of the main central block at Porirua Hospital designed to take 500 patients in a rural environment. Opened in 1895.
1894 Mrs. Grace Neill was appointed the first Official Visitor for Porirua Hospital, an appointment which was made possible by the Lunatics Amendment Act of the same year which allowed women to be Official Visitors.
1903 Government policy changes to promote the villa system, which helped in the classification of patients illness.
1905 Organized training for psychiatric nurses started and in 1907 the first formal examination in psychiatric nursing took place.
1906 ‘Reception houses’ were established as self contained communities for the assessment and early treatment of patients admitted to the hospital in the hope that they could be cured and discharged without having to be committed.
1925 Dr Truby King appointed to the position of Inspector General and made recommendations which took acute care closer to the community for the first time, by establishing psychiatric outpatient clinics in General Hospitals.
1928 A new nurses’ home built at Porirua Hospital, a 2 story brick building containing over 100 rooms. Before this nurses had to sleep in the main building and around the wards.
1930’s Introduction of malarial fever therapy for tertiary syphilis, the first specific therapy for a mental illness.
1939 Insulin ‘sub-coma’ therapy and convulsive therapy introduced for treating schizophrenia and depression by Dr R. Medlicott.
1942 A severe earthquake damages the Main Building at Porirua and had to be evacuated. 700 patients were transferred. 300 with staff were sent to the Chateau and 100 to the Wairakei Hotel which were requisitioned for the purpose.
1943 The Main Building was demolished and work on constructing 11 new villas begun.
1944 Electro convulsive therapy introduced by Dr. Medlicott.
1955 The introduction of effective pharmacotherapy for mental illness. Drugs such as chlorpromazine and largactil allow large numbers of patients to be discharged to the community.
1967 Mr. McKay, Minister of Health, said that in order to leave psychiatric Hospitals free to concentrate on their primary function of treating patients, they would no longer be engaged in farming activities. Porirua Hospital Farm handed over to the Department of Lands and Survey. Also from this time resettlement of long stay patients into community hostels started.
1972 Wellington Hospital Board assumed control of Porirua Hospital and it was integrated into the Boards facilities. Outpatient and community facilities expanded. Wellington Hospital continued with its own ward as an acute care facility for mental health patients. Resettlement of long stay patients into community hostels began at this time. Outpatient and community facilities continued to expand and an active rehabilitation service was developed. Wellington Hospital had long had a ward for treatment of people with mental illness and a closer relationship developed. (Note that Wellington hospital had long had acute care – but they did open a new ward at that time.)
1977 F ward was finally judged unfit for continued inpatient use and uneconomical to restore for such use. Instead it became used for occupational therapy, and as in-service training centre. In 1987 part of it was converted to a Museum housing memorabilia from the hospital as it was downsized. The other section was used for staff offices. Also in this period a psychogeriatric unit was established so that only those requiring specialised services were admitted.
1980 The Puketiro Centre was opened at Porirua providing a regional base for multi disciplinary services for children with developmental problems, not just intellectual disability.
1980’s – 1990’s

Porirua Hospital continues to contract its inpatient services and expand its services to patients in the community as they are discharged. Acute psychiatric services are developed in the Hutt valley and later at Kenepuru hospital.
1987 Porirua Hospital celebrates its centenary and opens a museum of its history in F Ward.
1997 The formation of the Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum as an Incorporated Society.
1997 The Museum buildings; F Ward, the Shade Shelter and the Courtyard, were given a category 1 NZHPT classification by the Historic Places Trust.
2003 The Gorbey Report which has formed the basis of the Museum’s subsequent development.
2006 The formation of a Trust with representation from the Friends of Porirua Hospital Museum, Porirua City Council and the Capital and Coast District Health Board, The Porirua Hospital Museum & Resource Centre Trust.