The property serves not only as a home for German Ambassador Dr Anne-Marie Schleich and her retired barrister husband, Cheng Guan Tan, but also as a working residence and place of business. While the entire top half of the house is used as the Ambassador’s private quarters, the lower half is regarded as the ‘official quarters’, where guests can mix and mingle in a variety of rooms. As we sit in the old billiard room, Anne-Marie explains how the role of an ambassador has a lot to do with meeting people, networking and entertaining, most of which is done in their home.
When dinner parties are hosted at the residence, guests include members of political parties, businessmen and women, as well as other ambassadors and high commissioners. New Zealand and German chefs often cater dinner parties, where a mix of New Zealand and German dishes and wine are served. FishHead spotted bottles of Giesen and Schubert wine in the catering kitchen, as well as an assortment of other popular German and New Zealand wines.
The property was built in 1931 by Dr G.W. Harty, and bought by the German government in 1958 to house ambassadors during their New Zealand postings. Anne-Marie has been the German Ambassador to New Zealand since August 2012, and has had previous postings in Melbourne, Bangkok, Berlin, London, Pakistan and Singapore, where she met her husband. When FishHead asked where she would be posted next, Anne-Marie explained that you can express interest in different locations, but you don’t really know where you will be posted, and that that’s one of the exciting things about being a representative of your country.
As the residence is owned by the German government, so too is all the furniture in the lower level of the house. To make the house feel more like a home, Anne-Marie has displayed some of her own pictures in the dining room, including reproductions of works by the iconic German painter Georg Baselitz, Australian artist Brett Whiteley and English artist William Turnbull. The house has undergone recent renovations, including earthquake-strengthening, improving insulation with double-glazed windows and roof tiles made of recycled tyres, and the provision of wi-fi throughout. While some interior painting and timberwork have been refinished, the bones of the house remain true to their original state.
Last year was an exciting year for the German Embassy, as it was the 60th anniversary celebration of relations between Germany and New Zealand. Anne-Marie and Cheng have thoroughly enjoyed their time in Wellington, especially our vibrant culture.