Parliament expansion on the cards

The proposed building would be behind the Beehive on Museum St (Victoria Evans / Newshub.)
The proposed building would be behind the Beehive on Museum St (Victoria Evans / Newshub.)

Secret meetings are being held between MPs at Parliament regarding a proposal to expand Parliament with a brand new building behind the current precinct.

The building would be constructed on Museum Street and provide a new, taxpayer-owned premises for Parliamentary Service, the smaller parties, and a handful of ministers.

Currently, they are located in Bowen House, a building leased from a private owner across the road from the Beehive on the corner of Lambton Quay and Bowen Street.

That lease expires soon, and a decision on whether it will be replaced with a brand new building needs to be made by November.

Designs for the new building haven't been released, but it's understood there's lobbying behind the scenes to get all MPs onboard to support a new build.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he's been approached by National to support the proposal, but told them he wasn't keen. He's also had meetings with Parliamentary Service and with Parliament's Speaker David Carter.

"These meetings were on a confidential basis. However, that confidentiality has been broken by statements in the media that Opposition parties are keen on the new building, which we are not," he says.  

Mr Peters says he doesn't trust National to make decisions about the precinct, citing its track record with the old wooden Parliament Buildings and privatising Bowen House.

"Now the Speaker says 'Parliament should own its own premises'. That is not what his party was saying in October 1998  when it set out to privatise the ownership of Bowen House," he says.

Mr Peters is also using the debate to call for the number of MPs to be reduced from 120 to 100 in a bid to reduce the demand for office space.

"Former Prime Minister Keith Holyoake used to have five people in his office - Prime Minister John Key has 55. Before anyone starts screaming about the need for more space let's take a look at how bloated the system now is," says Mr Peters.