A Brief History Of New Zealand's Beehive

Beehive, Wellington
Beehive, Wellington | © Michal Klajban/Wikimedia Commons
Thalita Alves

‘The Beehive’ is the preferred name for the New Zealand Parliament’s iconic Executive Wing building. It is where the Prime Minster’s and Cabinet Members’ offices reside, and the official place for Cabinet meetings. A modernist design, comprising many ascending layers, is what gives this building its distinctive shape. Here’s a brief snippet of this landmark’s remarkable history.

Before the Beehive: New Zealand’s Parliament Buildings

New Zealand’s Parliament moved from Auckland to Wellington in 1865. Wooden buildings were constructed by the city’s Provincial Council a few years earlier, around 1857-1858, to entice the government to make the move. The site, bounded by Molesworth Street and Hill Street, continues to house Parliament’s historic buildings – though the original houses have long perished.

Wellington Government Buildings 1890’s

In 1899, a fire-proof library had been built. This was proven to be a necessary measure: because of its tinder-dry wood materials, the Parliament buildings were continuously under threat of fires. In December 1907, those worries were proven to be true, as flames consumed the original developments. Many national treasures, along with the esteemed Bellamy’s lobby and restaurant (which was Parliament’s popular social hub) were destroyed. The library, however, survived the calamity.

Old Government Building, Wellington

From ‘shocker’ to nationally important landmark

Fast forward to the 1960s. The government, under the direction of Prime Minister Keith Hollyoake, decided it was time to complete the Parliament House – which had been partially assembled between 1912 and 1922, before coming to an impasse. British architect Sir Basil Spence persuaded the Prime Minister to put up a modern building, instead of following through with the original plans. His beehive design aimed to resolve many of Parliament’s longstanding issues, including a lack of space, aging foundations, and earthquake vulnerability.

The initiative was met with mixed reactions. Labour MP Basil Arthur declared the concept was “a shocker and must be scrapped”, while his leader Arnold Nordmeyer was in full support of it. In the end, both leading and opposition parties agreed that the building could, in the long haul, become “a source of national pride and international interest”. Construction moved forward in several stages and, by 1979, the Beehive was completed. It was officially opened in 1981, and received further refurbishments in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Beehive, Wellington

The Beehive in present days

The Beehive is 72 metres (236 feet) tall, consisting of 10 floors above ground and four floors below. An underground walkway connects it to Bowen House, which was the temporary home for Parliament during the 1990s’ renovations. An entrance foyer welcomes visitors into the premises, and also serves as the departure point for the Beehive’s daily public tours. The basement is where the National Crisis Management Centre is headquartered, while the first floor is where Banquet Hall (the premises’ largest function room) resides. Other facilities in the Beehive include several function rooms, an education space that has been modelled to look like the debating chamber, and the revived Bellamy’s parliamentary catering services.

Parliament Buildings and The Beehive
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article