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New Zealand Parliament

Staff laying the red carpet on the front steps of Parliament House.

Staff laying the red carpet on the front steps of Parliament House. Photo: Parliamentary Collection, Ross Becker.

23 June 2009

Official visits to Parliament

Parliament welcomes a host of visitors - from the New Zealand public and schools wanting to understand more about democracy, to casual tourists in Wellington, to the many cruise ships that now call into port. But it provides a special welcome for distinguished visitors who come on matters of State such as the State visit by their Majesties King Juan Carlos 1 and Queen Sofia of Spain. When this happens many parliamentary staff, sometimes together with the Visits and Ceremonial Office of the Department of Internal Affairs, prepare for the event.

There is a lot of work to be done. There is protocol to be arranged, formal welcomes to be orchestrated, routes to be planned, security to be considered, and catering for functions such as formal banquets. There is a bustle about the place as preparations are made.

Messengers prepare flags to be hoisted on the forecourt, Buildings and Security staff ready reception and banquet rooms, check out routes, provide a speaking dais and crowd-control barriers and, if the occasion requires it bring out the red carpet to be laid down the main steps. Cleaners burnish the brass and relevant artworks and displays are brought out for the dignitaries to enjoy during their special tour. Bellamy’s prepares the menu, usually including local dishes and choice local wines. Outside the gardening staff make sure the grounds are in top condition.

If the visit is by a Head of Government or a Head of State the tri-service Guard of Honour and pōwhiri group of the tangata whenua provide a formal welcome on the forecourt of Parliament Buildings. This is rehearsed the day before. A host of people work behind the scenes to ensure that the visit proceeds without a hitch and that Parliament presents its best possible face to welcome the official visitors.