The Serengeti, Stonehenge, the Acropolis, Vatican City, the Champagne Hillsides and… the Beehive?

It's early days, but work is under way on a bid to elevate Wellington's Parliamentary Precinct to Unesco World Heritage status.

New Zealand currently has three World Heritage sites- Tongariro National Park, Te Wahipounamu in the South Island, and the Sub-Antarctic Islands.

To be included on the list, cultural and or natural sites must be of "outstanding universal value".


The status is a prestigious title which results in a boost for the local economy through tourism.

Wellington City Council is researching two areas for the Parliamentary Precinct bid.

Information is being compiled about heritage buildings in the precinct and a case is being prepared outlining key legislation which has been enacted at Parliament.

The socially progressive legislation being discussed includes the likes of the country's world leadership in women's suffrage. When the Electoral Act 1893 was passed, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world where women had the right to vote.

Tongariro National Park is one of three World Heritage sites in New Zealand. Photo / Thomas Schweighofer.
Tongariro National Park is one of three World Heritage sites in New Zealand. Photo / Thomas Schweighofer.

New Zealand's nuclear free stance is also in the mix. In 1987 the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act was passed, making the country a nuclear and biological weapon-free zone.

In a largely symbolic move, the US Congress retaliated with the Broomfield Act, downgrading New Zealand's status from ally to friend.

Then Prime Minister David Lange responded that if the cost of the country's nuclear-free status was the end of the Anzus security alliance, it was a price the country was prepared to pay.

The bricks and water component of the Unesco research include the Executive Wing of Parliament, more commonly known as the Beehive, which has become synonymous with Wellington as the capital city.

British architect Sir Basil Spence designed the concept for the building in 1964, which is now a bold example of Brutalist architecture.


There's a well told myth Spence made the first sketch on the back of a napkin at a state dinner.

The building has become a landmark, standing 72m tall with 10 floors above ground and four floors below.

Next door, the General Assembly Library is the oldest building in the Parliamentary Precinct Heritage Area and is a substantial Gothic-style public building.

The Parliamentary Library, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell.
The Parliamentary Library, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell.

It is now known as the Parliamentary Library, providing research services for members of Parliament and parliamentary staff.

Across the road, the Old Government Buildings are considered the country's largest and grandest wooden buildings.

All of these buildings in the precinct have historic and cultural value through their association with the New Zealand Government. Business conducted in them has shaped society through significant policy and financial decisions.

The Unesco idea has already been floated with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard, and Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Grant Robertson.

The New Zealand entity that makes the application to Unesco is the Department of Conservation, which will soon be reviewing the tentative list it keeps of possible World Heritage sites.