Parliament Buildings

Page 4 – Current buildings

Parliament House

The new Parliament House of the early 20th century was dogged by problems of cost, design and supply of materials and labour. Around 1917 the top floor had been added and the grounds had been levelled, but everything was behind schedule.

Members of Parliament (MPs) were so desperate to get out of the run-down old Government House that Parliament moved into the incomplete buildings in 1918. Construction continued around them until work petered out in 1922, leaving the southern wall incomplete. Parliament House had to wait until 1995 for an official opening, when Queen Elizabeth II did the honours.

The building was never finished. Modernists did not like Edwardian neoclassicism and others worried about earthquake risks. Some called for demolition. Doubts remained until the 1980s when the government, heeding the heritage call, decided to strengthen and refurbish the buildings.

Maori Affairs Committee Room

Maori Affairs Committee room

A special room for the select committee dealing with Maori Affairs opened in 1922. Carvings denoting the entrance to a whare runanga were fixed to a wall and on the architraves of the doors. The room was substantially renovated in 1955 under the supervision of John Grace, the private secretary to the Minister of Maori Affairs. A large panel reproducing the Treaty of Waitangi was mounted on a wall, which also displayed coloured portraits of the prominent Maori MPs James Carroll, Te Rangi Hiroa (Peter Buck), Maui Pomare and Apirana Ngata. Red and black kowhaiwhai decorated the ceiling and cornices, the replica whare runanga entrance was restored, and tukutuku panels were extended around the walls.

After the 1990s refurbishment of Parliament House, a new Maori Affairs Committee Room, Maui Tikitiki-a-Taranga, was located on the ground floor. The room takes its name from Maui who, in Maori history, fished the North Island of New Zealand from the sea.

The carvings (left to right in the image above) show Maui, his mother, Taranga, and Hinetitama and Tanenuiarangi. They are set in tukutuku panels that represent Tane's journey to acquire the three baskets of knowledge (peace, prayer and art) with which to teach his people.

The Beehive

The Beehive is the most recognisable building in the parliamentary complex. It is here that many government ministers have their offices, as well as the prime minister and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. There are a host of meeting spaces, MPs' and other dining rooms, bars and lounges, and television and radio interview rooms. On the two lower floors are large reception areas.

By the 1960s everyone knew the old buildings were cramped earthquake risks, but whether to knock them down, finish them or remodel was the million dollar question. The issue was so contentious that an outsider, British architect Sir Basil Spence, was brought in. Keep the existing buildings and leave them alone, Spence said – finishing such an old design went against modern-day architectural thinking. Then he quickly sketched out his startling Beehive for housing the executive and Bellamy's. The name came from a box of Beehive brand matches he had been given, and despite official misgivings, it stuck. Bryant and May, the makers of the matches, later made special Beehive matchboxes for sale to MPs.

How to cite this page

'Current buildings', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 16-Jul-2014