New buildings finally funded to solve Parliament's space squeeze

Connor Stirling
Source: Q and A

Funding for new buildings on Parliament grounds could solve the space problem which has plagued the complex for years.

Budget 2022 saw at least $27m in funding for two new structures for MPs and staff.

That's because Speaker Trevor Mallard describes the current complex as "expensive, inefficient, and unsustainable", particularly due to the closure of nearby Bowen House for strengthening work and the press gallery's move out of its annexe due to seismic concerns.

“We have long outgrown the current premises available, and Parliamentary Service has been assessing Parliament’s future accommodation needs for a number of years," he said.

The plans have been met with majority support, including Green Party co-leader James Shaw who said he was glad a decision had finally been made.

"Ultimately over the next few years we'll be able to accommodate all of our MPs and staff on campus."

Previous Speaker David Carter mooted plans for expansion back in 2016 but these were scuppered by NZ First.

"The then-Speaker David Carter and Gerry Brownlee came to see me with every other party signed up to now build a new Parliamentary building, and we asked 'well where are the plans?' 'Oh well we haven't got any.' Now I'm sorry, some of us have been around too long to waste money like that," Winston Peters told Q+A.

Now out of Parliament and with Labour able to govern alone, the plans have been revitalised with Parliamentary Service working on them in the background.

The NZ First Leader is still unimpressed with the spending.

"Here we've got leaders in the form of Parliamentarians suggesting they expend more money when we all have got to tighten our belts here to get through this," he said.

While ACT Leader David Seymour agrees investment is needed in the space, he was not sure of the timing.

"I'm just not sure that in the current economic climate it's the right time to be going on a giant building spree in Wellington and I'm not sure we've got all the economy out of the buildings we have."

The total cost and timeline of the construction remains unknown with the project now out for tender.