New Zealand Parliament


New Zealand might be a young country but it has one of the oldest continuously functioning parliaments in the world and has chalked up more than its share of firsts, including being the first to give women the vote (in 1893) and the first to include an openly transgender Member of Parliament (in 1999). You can learn all about NZ's unique version of democracy on a free guided tour.

Hour-long tours usually depart on the hour, with half-hour highlights tours squeezed in between, but check the website for details (arrive 15 minutes early to allow for security and coat check).

Tours start with a 12-minute film screened in the visitor centre in the foyer of the Beehive (1980), a distinctive modernist building designed by British architect Sir Basil Spence. Looking like it sounds, this squat but oddly charming building contains the offices of government ministers, including the Prime Minister on the 9th floor and the (infamously hot) cabinet room on the top. Tours then cross the bridge into Wellington's austere grey-and-cream Parliament House (1922), where you'll visit the Debating Chamber, Banquet Hall and one of the committee rooms. The longer tours also include the Grand Hall, Legislative Council Chamber and the neo-Gothic Parliamentary Library (1899) next door.

Parliament usually sits from Tuesday to Thursday for around 30 weeks of the year. If you're keen to see the elected members duelling it out, you can watch from the public galleries.

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