Wellington: Parliament, Wellington Museum, Botanic Garden
Our itinerary today included a tour of the New Zealand parliament, a visit to the Wellington Museum and a cable car ride to the top of Kelburn Hill to visit the Wellington Botanic Garden.
I’m happy to report that Wellington was not nearly as windy today as it was yesterday. But the weather was highly changeable.
New Zealand Parliament
Wellington is the capital of New Zealand. Hence, the country’s parliament is here. The parliament offers tours. We went on one.
Things I learned about the New Zealand parliament included:
- The New Zealand parliament is unicameral. It’s one house is called the House of Representatives.
- Until 1951 it was bicameral. The Prime Minister of the day wanted to get rid of the upper house, the Legislative Council, but his party didn’t have enough members in the upper house to do so. So, as is the right of Prime Ministers, he appointed enough “suicide members” to the Legislative Council to win a vote in the upper house for it to eliminate itself.
- The Legislative Council Chamber is still used for the ceremonial opening of a new parliament by the representative of the Crown, the Governor General.
- The New Zealand parliament uses a mixed member proportional representation system. New Zealanders cast two votes: One for the Member of Parliament who will represent their district, and one for the party they want to form the government. Thus, some Members are directly elected specifically to serve individual districts. Others are elected from party lists to provide the proportional balance as elected by the party vote.
- Other than that, as best I can tell, the New Zealand parliament operates like some of the best of the other Westminster parliaments, such as, say, Canada’s parliament. I hear there’s also one in Britain, but never mind that.
Before going on a tour of the parliament buildings, all visitors must check their bags, cameras, and cell phones. Therefore, I took no pictures inside. So, you’ll have to take my word for it that the building and its chambers and reception halls are handsome. That is, of course, you’ll have to take my word for it unless you visit the New Zealand parliament or know some else who visited and whom you trust more than you trust me.
The Wellington Museum is a storied museum about the city. It is located in what used to be a bond store building by the waterfront.
I mean “storied” literally. The ground floor displays panels in a roughly oval shape around the walls of the museum. The panels provide a story about an event or conditions in Wellington for each year from 1900 to 2000. The museum also displays items associated with most of the stories. I read all of the stories. I remember approximately zero of them, plus or minus zero.
Other floors include exhibits about the city’s maritime history and about Māori legends.
It’s a small, but interesting and well-designed museum. Then again, given how I tend to go quickly into brain-freeze mode in most museums, maybe I found it interesting and well-designed because it was small.
Wellington Botanic Garden
The famed Wellington Cable Car took us to the top of Kelburn Hill. In truth, I didn’t know it was famed before reading up on Wellington. But, the couple of tour books I read both listed a ride on the cable car as a top attraction of the city.
Up at the top, there are great views of the city. In addition, among other things, the Wellington Botanic Garden starts at the top of the hill and continues partway down another side.
We visited the garden. There, we saw beautiful trees and flowers. That included a colourful rose garden with a variety of types of roses.
There was also a large begonia greenhouse. Unfortunately, it closed at 4:00 in the afternoon. We arrived a little before four, so we had only a brief visit with the begonias.
Beside the begonia house is a small café with outdoor tables. Not knowing about the early begonia house closing, we stopped at the café first for coffees and pastries. We ate at one of the outdoor tables.
There, we saw some of the most fearless small birds I’ve ever encountered. Singly and in groups they flew onto our table and onto the tables of the other people there. They then walked right up to our plates trying to steal some of our pastries until we or one of the staff shooed them away. After being shooed away, they or their compatriots returned within seconds. If we looked away for a second, they were right at our plate trying to peck at what was on it.
I don’t know if people didn’t read the multiple signs saying “please don’t feed the birds” or if people were careless with their crumbs, but the birds clearly expected to be able to get food there.
Flowers! Trees! Snack-stealing birds! Eating outside! (sigh)