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New buildings planned for Parliament

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 27/11/2016

Wellington's Parliamentary complex looks set to get a more than $100 million overhaul with the construction of two new buildings to house Ministers and MPs.

Speaker David Carter announced the proposal on Monday, revealing it was the result of three years of discussions as the end of the current $6 million a year lease of Bowen House on Lambton Quay approaches.

It's due to expire in 2018, but Mr Carter says the government has negotiated a four year extension, shorter than the usual eight years, to allow for construction of the new buildings.

Tenders are yet to go out and Cabinet has not approved a design or the full cost, but gave in-principle support for the project four weeks ago. The announcement was delayed because of the earthquake.

A final decision would be expected around September 2017, following the completion of detailed designs and costings.

Mr Carter says this was the most economic option of a number that were considered and would allow Parliament to own its own facilities, while Prime Minister John Key thinks the public will support the project knowing it will be cheaper in the long run.

The first phase of the build would see the earthquake-prone Parliamentary Press Gallery torn down in December 2017 and replaced by a three-storey, nine-suite space for Ministers.

A second five-storey building would then be constructed on the car park behind Parliament House, providing offices for MPs and new select committee rooms.

Both buildings would be expected to be in use by 2021-22.

Two residential suites in Bowen House will not be accommodated in the rebuild, but it's not yet clear if the gym and swimming pool will be replaced.

Mr Carter assured that the buildings would be five-star rated environmentally friendly.

The decision has been made to move away from Bowen House which has been leased by the government since 1991 when Parliament temporarily moved into the building while renovations were completed.

Some offices have remained ever since.

Among the options considered was retaining Bowen House or occupying another privately-owned building, however both were rejected in favour of the new builds.

Mr Carter refused to comment on the exact cost of the project before work is offered for tender.

Two Wellington-based architectural firms have already provided preliminary drawings to Cabinet.

"Rest assured it is a considerable saving over the medium-term on the current arrangements we have of leasing from a private landlord," he said, later adding he expected it would "not much more" than $100 million.

Mr Key indicated the savings would be seen over around 30 years and explaining that as the rationale would help garner public support.

"If we extended the lease on Bowen House and undertook the work that would be required there, the advice we have is that would be more expensive over time than building a new building," he said.

Mr Key said the government intended to push through with this project, unlike an earlier abandoned proposal to move MPs closer to the Beehive, because it would be cheaper in the long run.

The proposal has cross-party support from all but New Zealand First who would prefer to see the number of MPs reduced from 120 to 100 and for those currently housed in Bowen House to be moved to the old government buildings on Lambton Quay.

That site was leased to Victoria University in 1996 in a 50-year agreement.

But Mr Key said despite their opposition NZ First would be expecting their MPs and staff to be appropriately accommodated if they form government either with National or Labour after next year's election.

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