Discover Canterbury: Remembering the Government Life Building

The Government Life Building was a huge source of discussion during the 50 years it stood in Cathedral Square. It opened on 17 July 1964 replacing an older Government Life Building as well as the Embassy Theatre (formerly the Grand theatre). However, not everyone was happy about its appearance, and it was criticised for not fitting in with the aesthetics of the city.

Opening of the Government Life Building. © Christchurch Star. CCL-StarP-03147A

The building was one of the first glass skyscrapers in Christchurch and therefore was very modern compared to the other buildings in Cathedral Square. It had a rooftop digital clock and temperature reading which eventually became a landmark. It was turned on by a button which was located below the memorial plaque at the opening ceremony.


Unfortunately, due to the damage it sustained during the 2010/2011 Canterbury earthquakes, the Government Life building was demolished in 2014. The site was then redeveloped and is now home to the new Te Pae Convention Centre and Exhibition Centre.

On the Canterbury Stories website, we are lucky to have numerous photographs of the Government Life Building including during its construction.

Do you have any photographs of the Government Life Buildings or other iconic buildings of Christchurch? You can contribute to our collection via the Discovery Wall website.


Robertson, Donna. 2015. Government Life building opened in Cathedral Square - opened 17 July 1965. Christchurch City Libraries. [online].

Snelling, Sarah. 2019. Government Life Building. Christchurch City Libraries. [online].

Greenhill, Marc. 2012. Government Life building to come down. [online].

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Discover Canterbury is a fortnightly blog post promoting beautiful, interesting, weird, & wonderful digital content from our Canterbury Stories and Discovery Wall collections.
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