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Beehive (New Zealand)

Coordinates: 41°16′42″S 174°46′36″E / 41.2784°S 174.7767°E / -41.2784; 174.7767
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Te Whare Mīere (Māori)
Bowen House (left), the Beehive (centre) and Parliament (right). A very similar view of the latter two buildings features on New Zealand's $20 banknote.
Alternative namesExecutive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings
General information
AddressCorner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington
Coordinates41°16′42″S 174°46′36″E / 41.2784°S 174.7767°E / -41.2784; 174.7767
Construction started1969 (1969)
Completed1981 (1981)[1]
InauguratedMay 1977
  • 1998–2006
  • 2013–2014
OwnerGovernment of New Zealand
Height72 metres (236 ft)
Technical details
Floor count10
Design and construction
Architect(s)Basil Spence
Structural engineerMinistry of Works
Renovating team
Architect(s)Warren and Mahoney
official website
Designated24 July 2015
Reference no.9629

The Beehive (Māori: Te Whare Mīere[2][3]) is the common name for the Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings, located at the corner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington. It is so-called because its shape is reminiscent of that of a traditional woven form of beehive known as a skep. It is registered as a Category I heritage building by Heritage New Zealand.

Construction began in 1969 and was completed in 1981. Since 1979, the building has housed the offices of government ministers. Thus, the name "Beehive" is closely linked with the New Zealand Government.[4] It is often used as a metonym for the New Zealand leadership at large, with "the 9th floor" specifically referring to the office of the prime minister, which is based on that floor.[5] Cabinet meets on the top floor.


In the 1960s the government proposed an extension of Parliament House, which had only been partly built in 1922. Prime Minister Keith Holyoake had wanted to complete the original plan, but the government architect persuaded him to approve a modern building which would house parliamentary offices.[6] In 1964, English architect Basil Spence provided the original conceptual design of a round building rising in steps. The detailed architectural design was undertaken by the New Zealand government architect Fergus Sheppard, and structural design of the building was undertaken by the Ministry of Works.[7] W. M. Angus constructed the first stage, beginning in 1969 — the podium, underground car park and basement for a national civil defence centre. Gibson O'Connor constructed the ten floors of the remainder of the building.[8]

Queen Elizabeth II opening the Beehive, 28 February 1977

Bellamy's catering facilities moved into the building in the summer of 1975–1976 and Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, unveiled a plaque in the reception hall in February 1977. The Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, formally opened the building in May 1977. The government moved into the upper floors in 1979. The annexe facing Museum Street was completed in 1981.[8]

In the late 1990s, there was consideration of moving the Beehive behind Parliament House and finishing Parliament House according to the 1911 original plans. The plan was scuttled due to public outcry at the cost.[9] Renovations were carried out and the interior was modernised between 1998 and 2006 to plans by Christchurch architecture firm Warren and Mahoney. In 2013 and 2014, the roof was repaired and windows replaced.[7]

In July 2015, Heritage New Zealand declared the Beehive "of outstanding heritage significance for its central role in the governance of New Zealand". Blyss Wagstaff of Heritage New Zealand called it "one of the most recognisable buildings in the country". Heritage New Zealand assigned the highest rating for a historic place, Category I, to the building.[7] The original application for the heritage designation was made by Lockwood Smith, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives. The heritage registration with the list number 9629 became effective on 24 July 2015. The tunnel to Bowen House is specifically excluded from the heritage registration.[7][10]

Facts and figures[edit]

A view of the Beehive from above, showing the much larger structure at its base

The building is ten storeys (72 metres (236 ft)) high and has four floors below ground.[11] The entrance foyer's core is decorated with marble floors, stainless steel mesh wall panels, the columns clad in Takaka marble and a translucent glass ceiling.[8]

The Beehive's brown roof is made from 20 tonnes (44,000 lb) of hand-welted and seamed copper. It has developed a naturally weathered appearance. A tunnel runs under Bowen Street from The Beehive to parliamentary offices in Bowen House.[7]

The Beehive's circular footprint (see rotunda) is generally considered an elegant and distinctive design feature. However it is also quite impractical, as many of its rooms are wedge-shaped, curved or asymmetrical.[12] An extension has been built at the front to allow for a new security entrance. A new, bomb-proof mail delivery room has already been built at the rear of the building.[11]

The Beehive has, since 1992, featured as part of the design of the New Zealand twenty-dollar note.[13] A survey commissioned by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand found that the Beehive is "a New Zealand icon and as such is readily recognisable".[14]

Art work[edit]

The Beehive is extensively decorated with New Zealand art and was designed to showcase the country's creative artists.[15] On the inner wall of the Banquet Hall is a mural by John Drawbridge 42 metres (138 ft) long and 4.8 metres (16 ft) high portraying the atmosphere and sky of New Zealand.[16] The foyer contains a textile wall hanging Forest in the Sun by Joan Calvert and Guy Ngan which was commissioned for the building.[15][17] It was hung in 1977 when the Queen opened the building, removed in 2003 during refurbishments and re-hung in 2023.[15]

Offices and facilities[edit]

The upper floors of the Beehive house the Cabinet and the Prime Minister's office

The top floor is occupied by the Cabinet room, with the prime minister's offices directly beneath on the ninth floor (and part of the eighth).[7] The upper portion of the Beehive also contains the offices of other ministers; senior ministers are situated at proximity to the prime minister's office according to their ranking in Cabinet. The seniority of a minister is reflected in how far up the building they are.[7][18] Some ministers, especially junior ministers, are instead based in Bowen House.[18]

Other facilities within the building include function rooms and a banqueting hall on the first floor of the Beehive, which is the largest function room in the parliamentary complex. The parliamentary catering facilities of Bellamy’s include a bar known as Pickwicks or 3.2 (due to its position in the building on the third floor and second corridor), Copperfield's café, and the Member's and Member's and Guests restaurants. The building also houses, in its basement, the country's National Crisis Management Centre.[10] The Beehive contains a theatrette, commonly used for government press conferences. Other facilities include a gym and a swimming pool. The building is also used by members of Parliament who hold meetings or are discussing bills or new laws.

Public access[edit]

The New Zealand Parliament has a visitor centre located on the ground floor of the Beehive.[19] Tours were suspended in 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19. The public gallery and select committee meetings remained open to the public, subject to review.[20]

Photo gallery[edit]


  1. ^ "The Beehive, Parliament Building and the Parliamentary Library". Tiki Touring. Archived from the original on 18 February 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  2. ^ Wilson, John. "Tuakiri o Aotearoa me te kāwanatanga - Pūnaha kāwanatanga". teara.govt.nz (in Māori). Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Whare Mīere". maoridictionary.co.nz. Te Aka Māori Dictionary. Retrieved 26 September 2022.
  4. ^ "Latest News from the Beehive". Beehive. Archived from the original on 26 April 2022. Retrieved 19 August 2019. Beehive.govt.nz is the best place to find Government initiatives, policies and Ministerial information.
  5. ^ "The 9th Floor". Radio New Zealand. Archived from the original on 12 April 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  6. ^ Maclean, Chris (1 August 2015). Phillips, Jock (ed.). "The Beehive". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 29 January 2022. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Executive Wing (the Beehive)". New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero. Heritage New Zealand. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
  8. ^ a b c "The Beehive – Executive Wing". New Zealand Parliament. 27 February 2017 [20 January 2016]. Archived from the original on 13 January 2022. Retrieved 1 May 2022.
  9. ^ Small, Vernon (12 September 2016). "Parliament poised for major building revamp, including plan for new office block". Stuff. Archived from the original on 28 January 2022. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  10. ^ a b Harris, Catherine (11 July 2015). "Beehive declared historic place". The Press. p. A10. Archived from the original on 2 May 2022.
  11. ^ a b Rodgers, Kerry (1 July 2011). "The contentious Beehive – Building Today Magazine". Building Today. Archived from the original on 9 February 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Beehive". Wellington City Heritage. 26 February 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  13. ^ "$20". Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 24 April 2022. Retrieved 15 October 2020.
  14. ^ "RBNZ Bank Notes Survey 2010 Consumer" (PDF). Reserve Bank of New Zealand. June 2010. Archived (PDF) from the original on 1 February 2022. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  15. ^ a b c Elliott, Sue (2 August 2023). "Original tapestry back in the foyer of the Beehive". The Post. p. 14. Retrieved 11 January 2023 – via PressReader.com.
  16. ^ "John Drawbridge". Arts Foundation of New Zealand. 18 March 2021. Archived from the original on 1 February 2022. Retrieved 2 May 2022.
  17. ^ "Guy Ngan and Joan Calvert wall hanging, Beehive, Parliament". Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Retrieved 11 January 2024.
  18. ^ a b "Anatomy of a minister's office: What happens in the Beehive?". Radio New Zealand. 23 August 2018. Archived from the original on 2 February 2022. Retrieved 6 April 2019.
  19. ^ "Visitor Centre". New Zealand Parliament. 11 December 2015. Archived from the original on 31 January 2022. Retrieved 24 June 2017.
  20. ^ Small, Zane (16 March 2020). "Coronavirus: Public tours and school visits to Parliament cancelled amid COVID-19 concern". Newshub. Archived from the original on 31 January 2022. Retrieved 15 October 2020.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Media related to Beehive, Wellington at Wikimedia Commons