Historical mineral bathhouse reopens to the public after 13 years


One of New Zealand’s oldest thermal spas has finally opened its doors to the public.

Built during the 1880s, the Number Two Bathhouse was widely enjoyed for therapeutic use in Te Aroha.

But in 2007 the bathhouse, positioned above a natural mineral spring, closed after high amounts of bacteria was discovered in the pool.

Now open to the public for free use until July 18, the 13-year wait has been met with excitement from locals dying to take a dip.

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The Number Two Bathhouse, closed since 2007, has recently opened this week after years of delay in restoration.

Mark Taylor/Stuff

The Number Two Bathhouse, closed since 2007, has recently opened this week after years of delay in restoration.

“It’s been a long time coming” said Matamata-Piako mayor Ash Tanner, who voted in 2018 to fix the spa as close to its original design.

“I was quite vocal about the project when I was a councillor about a year or so ago,” Tanner said.

“It had taken too long to get going, and we needed to get it done, so it’s great to see it finally open again.”

Stuff spoke with Faye Ashton, 77, in 2019 after she had been waiting five years for the bathhouse to reopen. Now that it has she is excited to book a free 15-minute time slot.

Sharnae Hope/Stuff

Stuff spoke with Faye Ashton, 77, in 2019 after she had been waiting five years for the bathhouse to reopen. Now that it has she is excited to book a free 15-minute time slot.

Restoration of the bathhouse cost around $188,000, with much of that money going into finding a new water source.

Due to its heritage status, the bathhouse also had to stay in keeping with the Edwardian style.

While cheaper stainless steel or wooden tubs were mooted as alternatives, the council decided to stay with concrete to maintain the original aspect of the baths.

Bath users can view the old piles and rocks that cover the original spring underneath from the viewing area at the infinity wall end of the bath.

Mark Taylor/Stuff

Bath users can view the old piles and rocks that cover the original spring underneath from the viewing area at the infinity wall end of the bath.

The bath itself remains as it was and an infinity wall and concrete floating floor has been installed.

A glass panel has also been installed to expose the old piles and rocks under the tub, where warm mineral water used to bubble through the floorboards to heat the concrete tub.

The Number Two Bathhouse is the only spa with disability access and can fit up to six people.

Mark Taylor/Stuff

The Number Two Bathhouse is the only spa with disability access and can fit up to six people.

“The hot pools and the spa are in high demand, so the last thing we want to do is have an asset sitting there that’s not getting utilised that can potentially draw people in.

“It looks fantastic and it’s good to have that bit of heritage there.

“I’m just happy, after all that time, that it’s finally up and running so people can enjoy it again like they used to years and years ago.”

The mineral water from the bore is 74 degrees, but is cooled to 40 degrees.

Mark Taylor/Stuff

The mineral water from the bore is 74 degrees, but is cooled to 40 degrees.

During the 1890s -1910s, Te Aroha was one of the most popular spa destinations in New Zealand, maintaining that status until Rotorua took over in the early 1900s.

The Number Two Bathhouse is the last remaining of three bathhouses in the Te Aroha Domain.

In 2000 two incidents of amoebic meningitis- an amoeba that travels to the brain causing death- signified the spas bacterial issues.

The restored Number Two bathhouse can be booked out for free until July 18, for a maximum of six people for 15 minutes. The bathhouse has disability access.