Government buys Kate Sheppard's former home for $4.5m as public space, educational centre

The Government has bought the former Christchurch home of women's suffrage leader Kate Sheppard to secure it as a heritage venue, public space and educational centre.

The house in Ilam was purchased in early September for $4.5 million and will be managed by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Jacinda Ardern and Greater Christchurch Regeneration Minister Megan Woods announced this morning.

"New Zealanders take pride in being the first country in the world where women won the vote and this is the home where that crucial progress centred, making it of huge significance both locally, nationally and internationally," Ms Ardern said.

"The legacy of the suffrage movement and achievements of Kate Sheppard and other New Zealand women will be told at this special place," she said. 

“In the lead-up to the 126th suffrage anniversary, the Government has secured this house to recognise all New Zealand women who have made a difference and to highlight the milestones and trends that led to social change in our history."

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The piece of New Zealand history in Christchurch, worth more than $3 million, is up for auction. Source: Seven Sharp

Through a partnership with the University of Canterbury, the house will be used as a base for collaboration, teaching and academic research, the prime minister said.

In a second educational partnership, schools will be encouraged to bring students for special tours as part of teaching New Zealand history, she said. 

Part of the property can also be available for events and functions, returning revenue into the upkeep of this heritage property, Ms Ardern said.

Ms Woods says the Government is working with the local community to ensure the best uses of the property. 

“We have a joint vision with the local council in showcasing the suffrage movement and the achievements of Kate Sheppard, profiling women from New Zealand’s history who have made a difference, and providing information reflecting social change, such as the introduction of free education and the establishment of human rights legislation," she said.

"Purchasing and developing Kate Sheppard’s house as a public asset allows us not only to make it accessible to the public all year round, but we’re able to conserve its unique heritage values for future generations," Ms Woods said.

The house on Clyde Road, bordering the University of Canterbury, was the home of Kate Sheppard for 14 years during her active period of campaigning for votes for women. 

The home is registered as a Category 1 heritage place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust for its outstanding historical significance in relation to Kate Sheppard.

On 19 September 1893 the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, giving all women in New Zealand the right to vote. 

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It comes 126 years to the day since New Zealand women became the first in the world to win the right to vote. Source: Breakfast