Although not the largest city in the country (Auckland and Christchurch are both larger) Wellington is the capital city, and so is home to the country’s rather grand Parliament Buildings. Not big on a global scale they are still an imposing presence, with the traditional neo-Classical building on the right and the more contemporary Beehive, or Executive Wing, on the left.
The older building was erected in the early 1900s after the preceding building was destroyed by fire. The build was fairly haphazard and the government finally moved in to its new premises, still unfinished, in 1918. Things remained that way for a long time, with the south wall remaining unfinished for the next 70 years until it was decided in the 1990s to refurbish, earthquake-strengthen and finish the entire building. It was officially opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1995, almost 80 years after it was started. The refurbishment was a huge undertaking – ‘Strengthening the buildings was a key part of the project. In a mammoth job, the buildings were cut from their original foundations, new basements were carved out, and 417 base isolators made of rubber, steel and lead were installed to separate the buildings from the ground. Reinforced concrete supported the walls, and new wings were built on the second and third floors‘, nzhistory.net.nz. It includes a large galleria, debating chambers, a Grand Hall and spaces for legislative, Maori and Pacific Island councils.
In the meantime the Beehive was erected through the 1970s – named because of its similarity to an old-style beehive. This houses offices for the prime minister and many MPs. There is also a Banquet Hall, the National Crisis Management Centre, a Visitors Centre and facilities for government staff. This building features South Island marble, stainless steel and translucent glass, is circular in shape and stands 10 storeys high. In New Zealand terms it is rather grand.
The Visitors Centre is open every day, except a few major holidays, and there are guided one-hour tours available throughout the day. If you haven’t got time for that there is a short DVD screening in the Visitors Centre showing highlights of the buildings. There is no car parking in the grounds but some parking in the surrounding streets. It is also just a short walk from the centre of town.