The most impressive ‘Beehive’ New Zealand Parliament building
If you’re new to Wellington and interested in politics then the classic NZ parliament beehive tour is a must. Indeed, you will probably not know that the distinctive circular building at the corner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay is actually part of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings – the executive wing in fact. Known almost universally as the Beehive (rather than by any more official title) due to the overall physical similarity to a particular old type of straw or wicker beehive called a skep, the building stands ten storeys high with an additional four floors actually below ground level. An underground tunnel which runs under Bowen Street connects to the parliamentary offices in Bowen House.
Construction of the Beehive began in 1969 and was gradually completed in stages over the following ten years. The building was opened officially by Queen Elizabeth II – the nation’s queen – in 1977 and the country’s government took up residence two years later.
The interior of the building includes plenty in the plush and even opulent categories from the entrance foyer onwards which features marble floors and glass ceiling. New Zealand art can be found throughout the Beehive with one notable mural by John Drawbridge – that of the inner wall of the Banquet Hall – depicting the New Zealand skies. One peculiarity of the building – namely the presence of many wedge-shaped or curved rooms – is of course dictated by its overall circular shape. This gives the building its elegance but doesn’t necessarily allow maximised use of space.
The very top of the Beehive is home to the Cabinet Room with the Prime Minister’s offices taking up the ninth and some of the eighth floor. The rest of the building houses the offices of cabinet ministers, function rooms, a banqueting hall, a small theatre, swimming pool and the extensive parliamentary catering facilities known collectively as ‘Bellamy’s’. These include a bar, cafe and restaurants.
Anyone wanting a behind-the-scenes peek can take one of the one hour free guided tours which will give them a little insight into the parliamentary process as well as a whistle-stop but illuminating tour of a few key parts of the Beehive. Tours depart hourly from the Visitor Centre and booking in advance is only necessary if you are part of a group. Tours include details of the day to day life of the Parliament, stories from times present and past as well as finding out about the building’s history, architecture and viewing some of the Beehive’s artworks.
Different angle of the Wellington Parliament Beehive – when the All Blacks came to town after winning the rugby world cup
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