St James Theatre strengthening

Scheduled strengthening and refurbishment work at St James Theatre is is now complete.

The St James theatre as viewed from street level.

About the project

In 2015 the St James Theatre Building on Courtenay Place was found to be an earthquake-prone building. The work to strengthen the St James Theatre to a minimum 67 per cent of the New Building Standard started in April 2019 and was completed in June 2022.

Other improvements were made at the same time, including upgrades to staging, lighting, sound and rigging systems, as well as the fire protection, mechanical and electrical systems.

Key activities that have been completed include:

  • heritage fabric removals in the auditorium
  • general demolition and seismic interface preparation
  • ground works and utilities relocation
  • auditorium façade strengthening works
  • test piling completed to confirm soil performance / required methodology prior to progression of production piles
  • heavy demolition works within the Auditorium and Ballet Building 
  • localised steel installation in the Auditorium and Ballet Building
  • installation of reinforcing in preparation for the new ground beam to be installed
  • auditorium Façade strengthening works
  • strengthening to Studio 2 and 3
  • geotechnical test piling.

Who we worked with

The significant heritage elements of the St James Theatre, including the historic decorative interior, needed to be preserved and carefully protected. The team worked closely with Heritage New Zealand and conservation architects to ensure the heritage values were upheld and adhered to.

Construction works were led by Maycroft Construction Ltd and Beca.


Home of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and NZ Festival, the St James Theatre is the jewel in the crown of Wellington's theatre scene. The Theatre hosts a variety of dance, drama, opera, comedy and music every year. Designed and built in 1912 by Henry Eli White, the building has Category 1 Heritage status.

The St James Theatre is comprised of the St James Building (Auditorium and Stage House) and adjoining Counties (Ballet) Building.