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Mental Health

In this guide


Auckland office holdings

Wellington office holdings

Christchurch office holdings

Dunedin office holdings


NB: Where possible, this HTML research guide contains direct links to Archway for items and series in the archival reference field.


Many New Zealanders find Mental Health a sensitive issue, but it is an aspect of ordinary life, affecting many people. It has been of concern to governments since the 1850s. Some records have been created by government departments or agencies, but most by institutions. These were established to house (if not adequately deal with or treat) the individuals deemed, for whatever reason, to be mentally ill.

The Health Department archives held in the Wellington Office include a number of records for mental health institutions throughout New Zealand, 1853-1960. Patient and some staff records for particular institutions are held in the regional offices of Archives New Zealand.

Many of the records held are indexes and registers which include limited information. A considerable number of individual patient files are to be found at Archives New Zealand offices, but not all of them by any means. Other patient files which have survived are likely to be held in hospitals or in the record centres of Health Boards.


Access to most mental health records is restricted because they include personal information, often about more than single individuals. ARCHWAY listings of the records (see, give specific information about access.


No provision was made for the mentally ill by the Crown Colony government in the 1840s. If such people had no relatives to look after them, or they became too much of a problem, they could be placed only in gaols. In the 1850s and 1860s Provincial Governments set up a number of institutions, known as ‘Lunatic Asylums’, to house and possibly treat people with serious mental disorders.

‘Reports on the Lunatic Asylums in New Zealand’ (AJHR 1873 H-23) showed the following asylums and numbers of inmates:

Other institutions were created later. Some changed their names or sites over time. The institutions have variously been called Lunatic Asylums, Mental Hospitals and Psychiatric Hospitals.


For many years an Inspector of Asylums administered mental health institutions, not the Health Department.

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The holdings, at the different Archives offices, on Mental Health (patients and staff), which are most useful to family historians, are listed on the following pages.

Understanding the Records

Access Restrictions

Access to many of the mental health records is restricted by the hospitals or health boards who deposited the records with Archives New Zealand. Access permission is to be gained from a variety of agencies, often Health Boards, and some are listed with the records on the following pages.

The listings of the records in ARCHWAY, Archives New Zealand’s electronic finding aid, give more specific information about access restrictions. ARCHWAY can be accessed online through our website:
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Auckland Office:


Auckland Provincial Lunatic Asylum / Auckland Lunatic Asylum / Auckland Mental Hospital / Oakley Hospital (to 1973), then Carrington Hospital

Patients & Visitors


Kingseat Hospital

Raventhorpe Hospital

Tokanui Mental Hospital


Auckland Magistrates Court

Auckland Supreme Court


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Wellington Office:


New Zealand-wide records

Archives New Zealand in Wellington holds registers of patients in Lunatic Asylums, Mental Hospitals, etc, for the whole of New Zealand from 1853 to 1960. The registers are not indexed, but separate indexes exist for the period 1853-1951.

Finding a mental health patient 1853-1960

The indexes and registers for the whole of New Zealand, listed below, give only very basic records for patients and neither gives the reason for admission.

First, a name search in the indexes is required. This should give an Admission Number, which can then be located in the relevant Register. The Registers give Patient File numbers, and some files still exist. See the listings for the four offices of Archives NZ.

Many Mental Health patients were admitted more than once. If so, in the Index entry right hand column will be a number like ‘3803’. In this case the superscript 3 is the Register volume number and the main number 380 is the page reference to the readmission in that volume. New Admission Numbers were not given.

Researchers may order up Indexes in the Wellington Reading Room. Once retrieved, Archives staff will look in the Index for the name asked for by the researcher. If the name is located, the researcher must contact the Ministry of Health to request access to the information in the Index and Register. The contact address is:

Ministry of Health
PO Box 5013
Wellington, New Zealand

Once the access letter is obtained and brought or sent to Archives New Zealand in Wellington, Archives staff will provide a transcript of the relevant Index and/or Register entry. The volumes give information about many different patients, so they cannot be issued to researchers unless the access letter specifies that.

Additional restriction:
Before any research based on Health Department archives is published it must be submitted to the Director-General of Health (or representative) for approval.


Index 1 October 1853 – November 1910 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/1]
Index 2 November 1910 – September 1922 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/2]
Index 3 September 1922 – December 1930 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/3]
Index 4 January 1931 – June 1939 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/4]
Index 5 July 1939 – June 1945 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/5]
Index 6 July 1945 – December 1951 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/6]

(12 volumes) 1853-1960, in order of admission
Information given in the registers for committed patients may include:

  1. name of patient
  2. institution in which s/he was placed
  3. date of admission
  4. date of discharge or death
  5. number of the section of the Mental Health Act under which discharge occurred
  6. cause of death if it occurred in institution

The reason for admission is not entered.
No.1 October 1853 – December 1892 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/7]
No.2 January 1893 – March 1906 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/8]
No.3 March 1906 – November 1910 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/9]
No.4 November 1910 – October 1914 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/10]
No.5 October 1914 – June 1918 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/11]
No.6 June 1918 – March 1925 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/12]
No.7 March 1925 – May 1931 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/13]
No.8 May 1931 – June 1938 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/14]
No.9 June 1938 – May 1945 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/15]
No.10 May 1945 – October 1952 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/16]
No.11 October 1952 – August 1958 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/17]
No.12 September 1958 – March 1960 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/18]

November 1911 – December 1929 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/19]
January 1930 – October 1939 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/20]
October 1939 – February 1947 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/21]
February 1947 – December 1950 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/22]
December 1950 – December 1953 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/23]
December 1953 – May 1956 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/24]
April 1956 – April 1958 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/25]
April 1958 – October 1959 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/26]
October 1959 – May 1960 [ADCB 16174 H-MHD 5/27]




Porirua (Mental) Hospital (from 1910) preceded by Lunatic Asylums: Karori (1854-1873) and Mt View (1873-1910) (on site of present Government House).

Archives New Zealand does not hold the records for Porirua or the earlier institutions. These are still held by the Medical Records Section of Capital & Coast Health. Contact details are:

Privacy Officer
Legal Department
Capital & Coast District Health Board
Private Bag 7902
Phone: 04 385 5999 ext 82252


Wellington Supreme Court

Woodville Magistrates Court




All records containing patient health details (except Registers of Patient Deaths) are restricted for 100 years from the date of record closure. Files, Indexes and Registers will not be made available to researchers without the written permission of the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.


To access individual patient records:
(a) Contact Archives New Zealand staff who will search to confirm whether a patient record is held and advise the researcher of the full Archives Reference.
(b) Seek written permission to access the record from: Chief Executive, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, Private Bag 18, Nelson.
(c) Approach Archives New Zealand with the access permission letter to request the specific patient record.


Nelson Lunatic Asylum

Report Book 1864-1892 [ADHS W5473/98]
Inspectors Report Book 1875-1900 [ADHS W5473/85]
Attendant’s Report 1889-1890 [ADHS W5473/87]
Patient Case Book 1912-1919 [ADHS W5473/110]

Ngawhatu (Stoke, 1922-2000)

Register of Deaths 1917-1929 [ADHS W5473/91]
Registers of Patients Absent on Trial 1922-1929, 1930-1954 & 1954-1967 [ADHS W5473/92, 97 & 103]
Register of Discharges and Transfers – Female & Males 1925-1929 [ADHS W5473/93 & 94]
Registers of Discharges & Transfers 1930-1964 & 1964-1969 [ADHS W5473/101 & 102]
Register of Voluntary Boarders 1930-1969 [ADHS W5473/90]
Register of Deaths 1930-1969 [ADHS W5473/95]
Admissions – Formal & Informal 1964-1969 [ADHS W5473/88]


Admissions – Formal & Informal 1960-1969 [ADHS W5473/89]
Register of Deaths 1962-1969 [ADHS W5473/96]
Register of Discharges & Transfers 1962-1968 [ADHS W5473/100]
Register of Patients Absent on Trial 1962-1969 [ADHS W5473/104]


Seclusion Register 1936-1963 [ADHS W5473/82]
Seclusion Register 1963-1969 [ADHS W5473/83]
Seclusion Counterfoils 1965-1968 [ADHS W5473/84]
Post Mortem Book 1929-1959 [ADHS W5473/99]
Register of Admissions – Male & Female 1912-1929 [ADHS W7473/105 & 106]
Register of Admissions – Male & Female 1930-1963 [ADHS W5473/109]
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Christchurch Office:



Christchurch Supreme Court

Forms of Notice of Discharge or Removal 1873 [CAHX CH201/9]
Lunatics Act Case Files – Petitions and Affidavits c1860-1944 (most before 1910) [CAHX CH240/1-5]

Christchurch Magistrates Court

Mental Defective Files c1937-1948 (range incomplete) [CAHS CH973/23-24]

Access to the above Court files is restricted for 60 years from file closure. Permission to access from:

Christchurch High or District Court
PO Box 4618



Hokitika Lunatic Asylum /Seaview Psychiatric Hospital
Access is restricted for 100 years from file closure. Permission is to be obtained from:

Mental Health Services
West Coast District Health Board
PO Box 387
Patients and Visitors


Queen Mary Hospital, Hanmer
Access is restricted for 100 years from file closure. Permission is to be obtained from:
Privacy Officer
Canterbury District Health Board
PO Box 1600

Sunnyside Lunatic Asylum/Sunnyside Psychiatric Hospital
Access is restricted for 100 years from file closure. Permission is to be obtained from;

Privacy Officer
Canterbury District Health Board
PO Box 1600



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Dunedin Office:


Access to patient records is restricted for 100 years, and to staff/student records for 75 years. Permission is to be obtained from;

Psychiatric Records
Otago District Health Board
Private Bag 1921
Dunedin Lunatic Asylum / Seacliff Hospital / Cherry Farm Hospital / Orokonui Home
Archives New Zealand in Dunedin holds many records relating to these institutions, not all listed here. The most useful to family historians are:

Admissions, etc, Registers

Discharge, etc, Registers

Other Registers

Patients (Files, Casebooks and Journals)

Visiting Books and Inspection [Report] Books


Photographs and Plans

A variety of photographs and plans – buildings, patients and staff – is also held in the Dunedin Regional Office for Dunedin Lunatic Asylum / Seacliff Hospital / Cherry Farm Hospital / Orokonui Home.


Supreme Court, Dunedin

Lunacy Cases Register c1862-1908 [DAAC D349/296c]
Lunacy Case Files 1863-1937 [DAAC D140/267-272 & D349/304 L89]
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