The National Bank of New Zealand

The National Bank of New Zealand 

This is another of Dunedin’s wonderful historic buildings and like so many others there’s an interesting wee story to it. As a result of the Otago gold rush, the Bank of Otago was established in late 1863. The first chief executive of the bank was a 54-year old Scottish solicitor named John Bathgate who diligently set about his work with the bank in Otago and Southland upon arrival. That was until 1866 when a financial panic in London set in. Believing that banks might fail, and wanting to protect their funds, a large number of investors withdrew their money causing numerous banks to slump. One of which was the Bank of Otago. Needing a scapegoat for the failings of the bank, the London-based directors singled out John Bathgate who reluctantly agreed to resign.

Needing someone to take over the running of the bank, the directors turned to a person by the name of William Larnach. Who, at the time, was branch manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Geelong, Australia. Having moved his family to Dunedin from the Australia gold fields and needing somewhere to live, Larnach moved his family into the upstairs rooms of the bank where he worked. The Bank of Otago lasted under William Laranach until April 1873 when it was finally absorbed by the National Bank of New Zealand with the building becoming the main branch for the Bank. Originally only two stories, a new four story building was constructed on the site in 1911 and is the same one that graces Princes Street in Dunedin today. William Larnach eventually moved out of the banking business and among other things, went on to build a nice wee home on the Otago Peninsula and had a career in politics. As for John Bathgate, he too went on to become a politician, holding the position of Minister of Justice and was Commissioner of Stamps which I’m sure at the time was a very important position!

One thought on “The National Bank of New Zealand”

  1. Admired because of its architecture and as such a well known part of the Exchange area when it was a very busy place

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