Dr Ben Schrader (19 July 1964 – 19 April 2024) is warmly remembered by the Australasian Urban History Planning History (AUHPH) Group. He passed away after last month.

Since the 1990s, Ben had actively participated in conferences of the AUHPH Group. He delivered keynotes on the New Zealand heritage movement at the 2018 conference at RMIT in Melbourne and on the New Zealand city at the 2022 conference at the University of Auckland | Waipapa Taumata Rau.

Ben’s key publications were We Call it Home: A History of State Housing in New Zealand (2005) and The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities, 1840–1920 (2016). His University of Melbourne PhD focussed on the Australian city, and explored “Rebuilding Melbourne: modernity and progress in the central business district, 1910–50”, published in part in the Journal of Urban History.

We acknowledge and thank Heritage New Zealand | Pouhere Taonga who have given the AUHPH Group permission to republish the below obituary by David Watt (Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington).

Ben Schrader warmly remembered

David Watt (Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington).

Highly respected urban historian and publisher, Dr Ben Schrader, sadly passed away at home last month, just short of his 60th birthday, after a long illness.

Our staff and friends in Wellington and throughout New Zealand are mourning the loss of Ben, who known for his warm and engaging nature. Ben had built up many friendships through his work especially in Manatū Taonga Ministry of Culture and Heritage, at Victoria University of Wellington, and with Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga.

Known as a regular guest speaker on his research and publications, Ben’s expert opinion was also frequently seen in the media; steadfastly expressing his support in letters and articles for the retention of heritage places and values under threat in the capital city.

Ben received a PhD in Urban History from the University of Melbourne. He quickly earned respect as a freelance historian and publisher in the fields of urban history and the history of the built environment. Ben also worked extensively in university teaching, on contract history and heritage reports, as senior researcher for the award-winning New Zealand Historical Atlas (1997), and he worked extensively for Te Ara, the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.

In 2021 Ben completed a cultural heritage assessment of eastern Porirua for Kāinga Ora, and followed this up in 2022 with his appointment as the JD Stout Fellow at Victoria University, where he worked on the project Fabricating identities: A short history of historic preservation in Aotearoa New Zealand, 1890-1990.

One of his celebrated publications The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840-1920, was shortlisted in the non fiction category of the 2017 Ockham Book Awards and won the New Zealand Historical Association Award, WH Oliver, and Canterbury Society of Authors prizes for best New Zealand book in that year.

Two other significant publications that Ben produced that come to mind are We Call It Home: A History of State Housing in New Zealand (2005) and The Rise and Fall of Residential Protection Legislation: Law and History (2022).

Ben has undertaken several research contracts for us over the years, including historical detail for listing reports in Hawke’s Bay, the Wairarapa and in Naenae on state housing areas.

He was a respected colleague on the executive of independent heritage group Historic Places Wellington for several years and is sadly missed by his friends there.

Following a private family ceremony, friends and family gathered to celebrate Ben’s life at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery at Queens Wharf Wellington on 24 April.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga extends its heartfelt thoughts to Ben’s partner, Lis Cowey, and all family members.