Parliament Buildings & Beehive, Wellington
Parliament is where NZ's government meets to makes all sorts of decisions - some good and some very stupid (depending on your point of view!~!) Governments are selected here through the old english Westminster system with a total of 120 seats (though this can be 121 due to our system!) up for grabs. We have a mixed member proportional system where you vote for your favourite local dude plus vote for your favourite political party. It is supposed to ensure that all of the political parties get their fare share of power.
Parliament is located not far from Lambton Quay and is beside the very recognisable Beehive where the parliamentarians and their staff have their offices located. There is not a huge amount to see though you can sit in the public viewing seats and watch the action when parliament is sitting.
New Zealand's Parliament House is an interesting place to visit while in Wellington. You can get a free tour that lasts 1 hour. It is well worth your time.
You will see Parliament & Legislation chambers, the Grand Hall, the Maori Affairs Room, and more. The guides are great and tell some amazing stories of events that occurred here, as well as behind-the-scenes info that the public rarely hears. Another interesting fact you will learn about is the foundation of the building and its state-of-the-art earthquake shock absorbers, which are a New Zealand invention.
Tours run on the hour. Weekday hours are 10 AM to 4 PM, Saturdays 10 AM to 3 PM, and Sundays from 12 PM to 3 PM.
The most fascinating thing about this Italian Renaissance style building is that it looks like made of cream-coloured stone cubes, but in fact it is made of wood!
Kauri is the main timber used in this building, located opposite the now used Parliament House and the Beehive on Lambton Quay, and standing on the old seabed that was raised upwards in the 1855 earthquake. Hundreds of cubic metres of recycled timber, from demolished structures around the country, have been used for the restoration of this building to replace lost features. Other timbers used were rimu and matai. Originally the building had 22 chimneys but they were removed as earthquake risks.
Not part of the current parliamentary complex, this massive mansion-like four-storey building was designed by William Clayton and finished in 1876. At the time it was New Zealand’s largest building. Today it is the second-largest wooden building in the world (after Tôdai-ji in Nara, Japan), and the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. No longer used by New Zealand's Parliament, it houses Victoria University of Wellington's Law School.
It has a visitor centre where you can get a map for a self-guided tour, and you can walk inside the building and admire the kauri walls and ceilings. You also have access to the former cabinet hall.
Open Mon – Fri 9am – 4.30pm, Sat 10am – 3pm.
The building is beautifully illuminated at night.
The statue in front of Old Government House shows Peter Fraser who was leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister from 1940 to 1949.
Photo 2 shows interior kauri walls.
This greyish building spreads rather a cold atmosphere but the row of big cabbage trees along the driveway give it a nice NZ style feeling. Watch the TV news and you see all the parliamentary reporters standing in front of those trees - if they are not chasing a minister inside the building ;-)
Parliament moved from Auckland to Wellington in 1865. On 11 December 1907 a fire destroyed all – then wooden - parliamentary buildings but the library. The ballroom and conservatory of (Old) Government House, across the road, were an interim solution until a new Parliament House was built. Parliament moved into half unfinished premises in 1918 – and the other half of the neo-classic structure was never built, due to labour and material shortages during World War I. Government architect John Campbell was the designer.
In 1991 Parliament House (and the library next door) were renovated and strengthened to make it earthquake-safe. It is said to have been New Zealand’s largest renovation project in history.
Free guided tours
Parliament House has a visitor centre which is open daily (Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm, Sat and public holidays 9.30am – 4pm, Sun 11.30am – 4pm; closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, 1 and 2 Jan, Waitangi Day/6 Feb and Good Friday).
Free guided tours start on the hour and take one hour. You must leave your bags and cameras in a storage area, so you cannot take photos of MP’s who poke their noses.
This area is located at the northern end of Lambton Quay. Even if you only drive through Wellington, arriving by ferry, you drive past those spectacular buildings, and the one you always notice first is the so called Beehive.
Although the buildings are of very different styles somehow they form an interesting agglomeration. On one side – the one closer to the harbour – you find the fantastic Old Government Building, made of Kauri wood, which is now mainly used as the university’s school of law. On the other side of Lambton Quay, and then along Molesworth Street, sit the buildings that are now used by the Government of New Zealand, at an elevated position above the street.
The most unique building is the Beehive which houses the cabinet and the ministerial offices, so the site of the country’s executive power, a chopped cone consisting of seven segments that is made up of ten storeys inside. It is directly linked with Parliament House which was built in neo-classic style. Next in the row is the fairy-tale-like General Assembly Library, built in a mixture of Victorian and Gothic style. Thanks to the pastel colours it looks more like a moorish castle.
An additional parliamentary building is – if you stand in front of and face the Beehive – to your left, across Bowen Street. Its name is Bowen House, a simple office building, and it is linked to the Beehive by a tunnel under Bowen Street.
Some steps further up the hill and right into Aitken Street you find the Archives of New Zealand. The biggest treasure is conserved in the Constitution Room. There you find the original Treaty of Waitangi in the Maori language Te Reo. It was saved from rotting in the damp cellar of the Old Government Building in 1908. Open Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm, Sat 9am – 1pm, admission free.
Some people call it a shocker, some a source of national pride. But one thing is clear: Beside the Cable Car, the Beehive is Wellington’s landmark. It is said that the Scottish architect Basil Spence designed it on the back of a dinner napkin in 1964 while dining with Sir Keith Holyoake, then Prime Minister and later Governor-General. Building started in 1969, and was completed in 1981. On Wikipedia you find the sketch.
Whereas Parliament House can be visited on free tours you do not have access to the Beehive which is really a striking and unique structure.
It has a circular base, like a rotunda, and is shaped like a cone, chopped at the top. It is said that the architect had the idea of a real beehive in mind when he made the sketch.
The building is 72 metres and ten storeys high, plus has four storeys below ground. The roof is constructed from 20 tonnes of hand-welded copper. The interior design was a nightmare, as there are many asymmetrical rooms, and office furniture is not really built with such special features in mind.
The top floor houses the cabinet offices. The Prime Minister’s offices occupy the ninth and part of the eigth floor, and further down are the offices of the cabinet ministers. On the first floor is a banquet hall. In the basement are the country’s main civil defence headquarters (National Crisis Management Centre). A tunnel links the Beehive with Bowen House on the opposite side of Bowen Street. This building houses parliamentary offices.
I have really got a liking for this guy standing under a huge tree in front of the Old Government Building. I visited him several times a day, hoping to get the perfect light and the perfect photo. However, I must say: No photo is perfect. The tree influenced my efforts in not the best way, and I did not really like the results of flash photography.
This guy looks like the average Joe going to work with his briefcase, and the coat over his arm. But he was an extraordinary man, and – as you can deduct from the statue’s location – played an important role in New Zealand politics. We are talking about Peter Fraser, prime minister from 1940 to 1949. Born in Scotland, he died in Wellington in 1950, only 66 years old, one year after he had lost the election and his post.
Quite some politicians of the first century after the start of European immigration have inconvenient histories. This one is no exception. Peter Fraser came to NZ in 1911 because he could not find a job back home. He soon got into the unions and politics, played a leading part in founding the Labour Party in 1916, strongly opposed World War I, and was arrested several times for his views. He even spent one year in jail for sedition for advocating repeal of conscription.
Before becoming leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister in 1940, he was minister for health and education (from 1935).
Photo 2 shows the whole statue.
Wellington is home to New Zealand's governement, the Parliament Buildings built in 1912 but delayed due to World War I, were completed in 1918. This Edwardian neo-classic building was never completed. You will notice that the main entrance steps are off center, this is because the southern wing of Paliament was never built. Instead the proposed site for this is now taken up by the "Beehive" built in 1981, its it named the "Beehive" because of it external shape.
The Parliament grounds are immaculate and are great for photos.
Most public tours run on the hour departing from the ground floor foyer of Parliament House at the following times:
Weekdays: 10am - 4pm (Last tour departs at 4)
Weekends: Saturday 10am - 3pm, Sunday 12 - 3pm (Last tours depart at 3).
Closed: New Year's Day & 2 January, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Christmas & Boxing Day
… is a spectacular fairy-tale-like building to the right of the Parliament building, and I just love the Moorish style of it. Looks a bit like made of sugar and icing but not kitschy at all, although the colours are cream and pinkish terracotta.
This library for the use of the members of Parliament was designed by Thomas Turnbull and completed in modified form in 1899. It is the only parliamentary building that survived the big fire of 1907.
On photo 2 you see a detail of this outstanding building.
This statue in front of Parliament House features Richard John Seddon who was New Zealand’s Prime Minister from 1893 until 1906. He came into power after the death of John Ballance whose statue stands in front of the General Assembly Library.
Seddon was born in St. Helens in Lancashire (England) in on 22 June 1845 and came to NZ in 1866. He was member of Parliament since 1879 for several West Coast districts, as for Hokitika, Kumara and Westland.
He died on board the ship Oswestry Grange on 10 June 1906 when returning from a strenuous trip to Sydney where he had exhausting negotiations for 24 days. Doctors had warned him not to undertake such a journey regarding his failing health but he ignored the warnings and died from heart failure on the way back.
This man really had an extraordinary life. He was an unpromising pupil, so his parents took him off school at the age of twelve. He did not succeed as a worker either, being dismissed because he asked for higher pay. When he heard about the possibility of poor people becoming rich in Australia he boarded a ship to this country in 1863. He followed the stories about the gold rush in New Zealand and set out for Hokitika in 1866. He worked in the goldfields and as a publican, and when the gold rush population started dwindling he had to file bankruptcy. Parallel to his work, his heart was always in politics, and succeeding in becoming the first mayor of Kumara in 1877 was the start of an unstoppable career.
This statue in front of the Parliamentary Library features John Ballance, New Zealand’s Prime Minister from 1891 to 1893.
He was born on 27 March 1839, came to New Zealand in 1865, and died on 27 April 1893 at the age of 54.
This modern part of the parliaments buildings is call the beehive due to its round shape. It hosts the offices of the Prime Minister and the members of the government and therefore is the executive part of the parliament.
It has been built by the british architect Basil Spence in the 1970s and has developped to one of Wellingtons landmarks.
You can take tours of NZ's parliament, they take around about an hour. There's plenty of NZ's history on display, and there's much to see. What you can see though will vary a bit, depending on what is happening in parliament at the time.
The older part of the parliament buildings host the Legislative of New Zealand. Here you find the offices of the members of parliament and the assembly halls.
It has been built by architect Thomas Turnbull in 1922.
The NZ Parliament House could be placed in any European city without looking bizarre. I do love this kind of architecture, but I would have appreciated more a building representing the 2 cultures sharing the Country.