When the government used to own hospital facilities and tourist resorts it was possible to transfer patients between these sites, especially in a time of national emergency, such as the Second World War. An earthquake struck Wellington on on the 24 June 1942, followed by a second on June 26, silencing the chimes of the Wellington post office clock, bringing down chimneys, disrupting the railways and severely damaging the Porirua Mental Hospital. During the second earthquake, a child was snatched by its mother from its bed “which a moment later was crushed under a mass of brickwork”. The 1,477 patients living at the hospital were reported to have remained “surprisingly calm” during the quake but evacuations began immediately because of the extensive damage to the building. Fifty-nine female patients were sent to Sunnyside in Christchurch and 50 to Kingseat in Auckland. After the second earthquake 100 male patients were sent to Stoke in Nelson and 100 to a former Salvation Army Inebriates’ Home on ‘Roto Roa Island’ in the Hauraki Gulf, but more accommodation was urgently required.
The Minister of Health announced that “the most suitable” and “amenable” patients would be sent to Wairakei (near Rotorua) and to the Chateau Tongariro. Dr D.G. McLachlan, from the Porirua Hospital, was appointed the superintendent at the Chateau Tongariro and advertisements were placed by the Tourist and Publicity Department announcing that the Hotel would be closed to the public from 15 September 1942 “until further notice”. Women, it seemed, were suitably ‘amenable’ and 200 were to be sent to the Chateau and 100 to Wairakei.