Capital 150 celebrations mark first sitting of Parliament in Wellington

9 June 2015

Wellington’s Mayor Celia Wade-Brown is inviting all New Zealanders to a party on the grounds of Parliament next month to celebrate 150 years since Wellington became the Capital.

Orpheus Choir on a bus holding a pavlova with kiwifruit on it.

Capital 150 will include a Big Birthday Party with music from Dave Dobbyn and the Orpheus Choir in the grounds of Parliament, a light show and a chance to view the nation’s treasures during the weekend of Saturday 25 July to mark the first sitting of Parliament in Wellington which took place on 26 July 1865.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown announced the celebration today (9 June) from the steps of Parliament surrounded by dancers and representatives of organisations from across the city.

“We are celebrating our identity as a Capital city – this is our place, which is open for all New Zealanders,” she says. “Wellington is the home of government, New Zealand’s national collections and institutions, and the headquarters for arts and culture organisations”.

Mayor Wade-Brown wants to encourage all New Zealand children to visit the Capital as part of their education as New Zealand citizens and hopes the 150 year anniversary will encourage schools to visit.

“We are looking to the past to celebrate the future of our Capital city,” says Mayor Wade-Brown.

Wellington is also home to more than 40 diplomatic missions involved in New Zealand’s international trade and building international connections.

Capital 150 is the brainchild of born and bred Wellingtonian, Grant Stevenson, who is the events coordinator.

Grant says the celebrations are a chance to showcase the city.

“These celebrations are a reminder that we are one of the world‘s most representative democracies,” says Stevenson. “We were the first country in the world to give women the vote and our capital is where it all happened.”

The Right Honourable David Carter, Speaker of the House of Representatives, says: “People have been drawn to Parliament over the past 150 years to hear the announcements of war and peace, to protest, to celebrate. People come to participate in our democracy, to visit and learn, sometimes just to enjoy the grounds. This accessible precinct has contributed to the development of a vibrant, diverse and culturally rich city.”

Open House: The Treasures of Wellington

25 and 26 July

We’re opening the doors to more than 30 national institutions free of charge, revealing some of the rarest and most significant collections and important treasures housed in this city. A free hop-on, hop-off bus service, sponsored by Go Wellington, will take visitors around the Open House circuit. Stops along the way include the Supreme Court, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden.

At Parliament, there’ll be concerts from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the New Zealand School of Music. The Opera House has a busy schedule, with the Royal New Zealand Ballet in rehearsal, performances from New Zealand Opera, Footnote Dance, and 150 young dancers from Tarrant Dance Studios, as well as a masterclass conducted by Dame Malvina Major – all free to the public.

The Big Birthday Party

5–7pm, 25 July (rain day 26 July)

For 150 years, we have marched to the steps of Parliament to protest, petition and complain. But now it’s time for a party – and a cake! Join Dave Dobbyn and the Orpheus Choir at Parliament Grounds as they lead a celebration of Wellington as New Zealand’s capital. Parliament House will take centre stage with a spectacular 3D light and sound show that brings the city’s history to life.

If you can’t make the Big Birthday Party, the 20-minute light show will also play on a loop that will run 5.30pm–8pm, 26–27 July.

Find out more about how Wellington became the capital and our 150th anniversary events at Capital 150 or use #Capital150.