The Government of the day was in no hurry to spend money on new accommodation, and it was not until February 1911 that Prime Minister Joseph Ward announced a competition for a replacement design.
Thirty-seven submissions were put in front of the judge, Colonel Vernon, former government architect for New South Wales. The winner was government architect John Campbell, who also secured fourth place with a second entry. The final neo-classical design is an amalgamation of both his schemes.
Importantly, the building was deliberately designed to display New Zealand materials. Coromandel Granite provides the base course on the outside and Takaka Marble the facing. Other local stones feature in public areas inside, with polished native timbers used throughout.
Construction was intended to occupy two stages. First would come the central core to house both chambers of our then bicameral parliament. The second would see construction of an extension, primarily to replace the existing library.
Yet again, New Zealand followed its traditional path with concerns being expressed over costs. Finally, Prime Minister William Massey gave the nod for construction to begin in 1914 for a reduced Stage 1, with most of the ornamentation and proposed roof domes dumped.
And then World War I broke out, with issues of labour and materials slowing progress such that it took until 1917 for the upper floor of Stage I to be completed.
Despite the remainder of this phase of building being unfinished, MPs were fed up with their inadequate quarters and insisted on moving into the part-built structure. They did so in 1918.
Never to be built
It was four more years before construction finally ceased. The second stage of the left wing was never to be built. Even so, it wasn’t until 1995 that the building was officially inaugurated. Queen Elizabeth II did the job.
Today, Parliament House contains the debating chamber, Maori Affairs committee room — Maui Tikitiki-a-Taranga, Matangireia — the former Maori Affairs committee room, The Pacific Room, galleria, legislative council chamber, the Speaker’s office, and committee rooms.
The chamber is the heart of Parliament House. It is where the House of Representatives sits to conduct parliamentary business.
It has a raised roof above galleries that circle the debating floor below, and is dressed with rimu timbers, thick green carpets and green leather seats, along with backlit stained glass panels.
It is complemented by the legislative council chamber where New Zealand’s Upper House met until abolished in 1951.
Matangireia was dedicated to the Maori Affairs Committee when Parliament House was completed in 1922. It was supplanted by Maui Tikitiki-a-Taranga in 1995, the largest of the select committee rooms.
The galleria is a primary thoroughfare through Parliament House. It is four storeys high, 30 metres long, and five metres wide.
On the other side of the building is a similar walkway containing a large conservatory filled with native New Zealand ferns.
And then there is the 27 metre-long Grand Hall on the first floor of Parliament House. This was restored during the 1992-1995 makeover. It has impressive arched stained glass windows and stained glass ceiling domes designed so that their lighting enhances the room’s decor.