Waikato University buys Michael King's house

7 April 2008
Waikato University has bought the Coromandel Peninsula house belonging to late New Zealand writer and historian Michael King.

King and his wife Maria Jungowska died in March 2004 when their car left the road on a notorious stretch of SH2 at Maramarua.

Now, the university has bought the house that King built in Opoutere, near Whangamata, on the Coromandel Peninsula. It is intended to be used as a retreat for staff and perhaps visiting academics and is being seen as the beginning of other tributes to the writer.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Roy Crawford said King had played an important part within the university. King’s long association with Waikato University began in the late 1960s and the 1970s with his Master of Arts and his PhD. He was a fellow of the Department of History in the early 1990s, and in 1994 spent the year as writer in residence. Eight years later he returned as senior fellow in history. He was made an honorary doctor in 2002 and had been working on a history of the university when he died in 2004, although this has never been completed.

Professor Crawford said that when King's children, who live in Wellington and Christchurch, decided to sell the house where their father did so much of his writing, the university was given the chance to continue its link with the eminent historian. The three-bedroom house was built in the late 1980s/early 1990s and sits surrounded by bush on more than 6000sq m.

"We see it as a wonderful opportunity to honour Michael King's memory by keeping his house as a place where staff can further their research, or small groups of staff or graduate students can use it for research or writing."

The university, which took over the house early this month, paid just over $700,000 for it, well below a market valuation of $820,000. In order to maintain close links with the King family, they will continue to have the use of the house between December 18 and January 18 until 2013.

Some mementos of King's will remain in the house, as will his large writing desk, although this remains the property of the family. Professor Crawford said the house would not be a shrine to the writer, but it was hoped it would be an inspiration to those who spent some time there.

Michael King
Michael King