Thursday, March 6, 2008

If There Is an Earthquake - Run for the Parliament Building!

The Beehive and the Parliament Building

Wellington sits on a fault created by two grinding tectonic plates, giving the city and New Zealand quite a history of earthquake disasters. Mary Ann and I took the free tour of the Beehive (the Executive Building), the Parliament Building, and the very historic Parliament Library yesterday. One of the first stops on the tour is the basement of the Parliament. In the early 1990’s the building was shut down for four years so that it could be earthquake proofed. We actually saw a few of the 200 gadgets that will allow the ground, but not the building to shake, rattle and roll. It has been designed to the standard of the 600 year potential event.

All this retrofitting was generated by a devastating fire and the earthquake work was part of a complete renovation and reconstruction of the Parliament and Library. These two buildings, as compared to ultra modern Beehive have been meticulously restored with beautiful wood, tiles, marble and over 200 stain glassed windows. The tour of the three buildings took about an hour, and as we have found for most New Zealand sites, was absolutely free.

The guide was a woman with a good sense of humor, and seemed to have no hesitancy about poking fun at the government. She was able to impart a lot of information about how the Parliament operates and its historical context. All three of the buildings are connected together. We learned that the offices of the Prime Minister are on the top floor of the Beehive, and the junior ministers know exactly how important they are as their offices are on the lower floors descending by the importance of the Ministry. If you can hear the conversations in the cafeteria you know you are just steps away from being a backbencher.

The grounds are beautiful with a very ultra modern High Court located across from the Parliament Building. We went in to see if important arguments were being made, but like the “Supremes” the world over, they were busy contemplating. The four or five matters that were heard that day all were over by about 11 a.m. We finished off our morning activities with lunch at The Dog & Bone, a British style pub. Great sandwiches washed down by Macs Gold and Lemon-Lime Bitters!

Quirky Living Note: In an earlier post I referred you to the cleverness of the Tui Beer website. Their advertising people must work overtime. They have very clever TV ads, and today I saw a billboard that on the left said “We don’t need another public holiday,” and on the right just above the Tui logo it said “Yea Right!.”

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