Local animal-lover, Barbara Gordon, is absolutely delighted with the recently opened SPCA premises in the Old Fever Hospital on Mt Victoria. She has volunteered for the SPCA for some 30 years now ... and counting. Her involvement began in the 1970s at the increasingly-inadequate premises in Newtown. She was on the committee then and included dog-walking amongst her volunteering duties.
After a short break, she became involved again three or four years ago. A long-time cat-lover (she has four cats in her Bayview home) she donated the Cat Wing in the new building. She is on the Board there and does a weekly stint on the front desk to help, direct and welcome visitors.
After an 8-year battle to secure the premises, it's easy to understand the joy of the staff, the volunteers and — not to forget — the animals who have been found to be much calmer and happier here. The new premises are three times the area of the old and much quieter, surrounded as they are by the open space and greenness of the Town Belt.
The building has been earthquake-strengthened and refurbished at a cost of about $3.5million. The conversion is now virtually complete and Barbara pays tribute to Catherine Torrance who was project manager — "she did a marvellous job, she really did."
The building consists of an education centre and a veterinary wing with new hospital facilities where unwell animals undergo operations and are nursed back to health. Then there's the extensive adoption area devoted to the everlasting quest to find permanent homes for the animals — there has been a 30% increase in adoptions since they moved to the new premises.
Another long-term quest is for the finance still needed. "We have another million dollars to raise," Barbara said. One of the fundraising events they encourage, is for others to hire part of the premises. "We have children's parties up there; there's a conference room for hire and animal-lovers could even have weddings up there!" There are plans for a dog-friendly café later on, too.
The building is an attractive example of the Arts and Crafts style with its spreadeagled shape and long verandahs. It was built between 1918–1920 as a Fever Hospital for patients with infectious diseases. Many of those treated were Tb sufferers. Others were soldiers returning from World War I who had
fallen victim to the influenza pandemic — more than 700 are said to have died from the flu in the Wellington region alone.
In 1969 the name changed to the Chest Hospital which operated for 12 years before it closed. Seven years later the building became the Wellington Polytechnic Conservatory of Music and was used for rehearsals up to 1998.
This was followed by many years of neglect, uncertainty, interspersed by hopeful plans by the SPCA that petered out. The buildings were getting more and more derelict. But finally the WCC and the SPCA came to an agreement and renovations got going smartly.
The Grand Opening was held in February of this year.
JD, Bay View newsletter 63, May 2014