About us

Te Whaea is New Zealand’s National Dance and Drama Centre,
home to Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School and New Zealand School of Dance

Te Whaea is a vibrant tertiary campus providing a nurturing environment for generations of New Zealanders to strive for excellence in the performing arts. It is also a high performance community hub that is a vital part of New Zealand's creative and cultural capital.

Hundreds of Wellingtonians take part in a myriad of cultural and sporting pursuits here every week. They include dancers of all genres, through to martial arts enthusiasts, classical musicians and more. Each year Te Whaea welcomes over 60 community groups whose members meet, rehearse and perform in its studios and theatres that are well suited to their various needs.

Te Whaea also hosts corporate events and has spaces suitable both for meetings and conferences.

As a landmark situated at the southern end of Wellington's creative corridor, it is a building that has been well known to generations of Wellingtonians in its changing guises over the years.

Te Whaea's wider complex now includes facilities such as The Circus Hub, Capital Gym Sports, Wellington Indoor Sports and Te Whaea Artificial Turf.

Te Whaea is a charitable trust working closely with the Wellington City Council to support a shared commitment to community and world-class arts and culture in the city.

Our Story

Our Story

A high-performance cultural and sporting hub

Our History

Our History

Find out about Te Whaea’s rich history

A visual history

A visual history

Take a look through Te Whaea's history in Wellington

Theatre performance

Who uses our facilities?

More than 15,000 people visit Te Whaea each year

Te Whaea – meaning The Mother in Te Reo Maori – is a high-performance cultural and sporting hub that welcomes everyone from the community, and facilitates world-class creative connections.

As a vibrant and welcoming tertiary campus, at Te Whaea you’ll rub shoulders with professional actors, dancers, directors, producers, designers, costumiers, and more – people with a passion for excellence in the arts.

Our facilities include fantastic natural light, sprung floors, mirrors, excellent acoustics, six-metre-high ceilings and a wide variety of spaces for every type of performance, meeting or event.

Just ten minutes from Wellington’s CBD, we have over 200 car parks on-site and a bus stop right outside our doors.

Te Whaea site 1927

Older Wellingtonians will remember the complex as the Wellington Show Buildings having attended festivals, trade fairs and circus shows prior to Te Whaea’s inception.

In the beginning

The Wellington Winter Show Association was formed in 1924 with businessman RH Nimmo as Chairman. The Association aimed to build an exhibition space for trade fair and entertainment events. The site – within the Wellington Town Belt – was set aside for non-commercial use, and has always been used for recreational, educational and cultural purposes.

Construction on the John St site was completed in 1929. The Governor General, Sir  Charles Fergusson, opened it in September of that year. In those days the structure was a single large building, which is still substantially the one that faces the road, and three long buildings running south from the back of the block.

Beauty Pageant

Fond memories

For more than fifty years the annual Winter Show became a featured event for the whole region. Special trains ran from the Wairarapa, Taihape and Palmerston North.

Every Wellington child from that time can remember the excitement of the ferris wheel, the side shows, the ghost train and the dodgems. The building was crammed with trade exhibits and information stalls displaying the latest in every commodity.

From the 1980s onward

In the eighties new stadiums were built – the Madgwick Stadium and the one which now houses Wellington Indoor Cricket and Indoor Basketball Association activities. The Marshall Lounge has been host to many meetings, notably the regular Wellington South Rotary lunches.

Prior to the building of the TSB Arena on the waterfront, this was also Wellington’s main indoor music venue and featured performances from U2, Tina Turner, Cliff Richard and Radiohead.

Te Whaea site today

Te Whaea is born

Te Whaea was opened in 1998 by the Governor-General, The Right Reverend Sir Paul Reeves, having been purpose-built as home to New Zealand's two national schools of drama and dance. Te Whaea's twentieth anniversary was celebrated in 2018.

Hutchinson Rd being re-routed.
1927 Hutchinson Rd being re-routed
Wellington Winter Show Buildings the day before the official opening
1928 Wellington Winter Show Buildings the day before the official opening
The first Winter Show Poster
1929 The first Winter Show Poster
NZ Table Tennis Championships
1929 NZ Table Tennis Championships
1957 Industrial Fair
1957 Industrial Fair
Trams pre-1964
Pre-1964 Trams on Hutchison Road. The last trams left Wellington in 1964
Home and Garden Show
1960 Home and Garden Show
Trade Fair
1971 Trade Fair
Ramones band
1980 The Ramones
Warren and Mahoney’s design for Te Whaea
1997 Warren and Mahoney’s design for Te Whaea

We are home to the New Zealand School of Dance and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, and our facilities are used by over 60 community groups each year.

The wider Te Whaea complex houses a range of other educational and sporting facilities including:

Cultural and community groups regularly using Te Whaea’s rehearsal and performance spaces include: