This week the House was on hand to witness the swearing-in of a new Governor General. And now, so can you.
On a seat awaiting the arrival of Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw is an Order of Ceremony for the swearing in of the Governor General.
An event like this is planned like a fancy wedding, down to the last ribbon and font. There are a team of hyper-organised folk at Internal Affairs that specialise in this ceremonial and protocol game, where getting it right counts. They've likely had a quieter than expected year after Covid-19 forced New Zealand's hosting of APEC online.
And just like a high-stakes wedding there is a rehearsal. At the rehearsal the Governor General Designate and the Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann confirm what they will need to sign and where. This probably isn’t something you want to get wrong, but they seem pretty relaxed.
The morning arrives and the front door of Parliament is thrown open, a rare circumstance. Even rarer, a red carpet extends to the bottom with a charming golden rope, as if to bar the way to all but ‘the chosen one’.
A formal declaration, already signed by the Prime Minister and tied with a red ribbon, awaits the right moment. "Sign Here" says a sticky note. This proclamation will be read by the Herald of Arms once the oaths have been signed.
The tools of 'oathing' lie waiting on the table for the soon-to-be Governor General's arrival: a fancy pen, a Bible in te reo, and the magic oathy words.
At the appointed time, the heads of three branches of government wait for the monarch’s stand-in to complete the set.
The Prime Minister (Jacinda Ardern), Speaker of the House of Representatives (Trevor Mallard), Chief Justice (Dame Helen Winkelmann), Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary of the Cabinet (Michael Webster), the partner of the Prime Minister (Clarke Gayford), and Herald of Arms Extraordinary (Phillip O’Shea) all await Dame Cindy Kiro's motorcade at the bottom of Parliament's steps. That’s a heck of a line-up to have wait on you. No pressure.
Also scattered around are various media, security and a handful of spectators. Across the road at the High Court Building are a rag-tag of Covid protestors, apparently oblivious to the occasion, so far.
And the main event arrives with chase cars and sirens. Dame Cindy Kiro is wearing an extraordinary kahu kiwi, and has attendant kuia, kaumatua and Aide de Camp, Captain Frankie Thompson.
The Governor General is also the Commander in Chief, so there are always two aides de camp on her staff. The two take turns being "in waiting" (meaning at the side of the boss).
Greetings ensue. From the top of the stairs the tangata whenua kaikaranga Alisiha Mansell begins the call.
So up they go… . As manuhiri Dame Cindy Kiro is accompanied up the steps by the Prime Minister and heralded by the kaiwhakautu Puhiwahine Tibble responding to the Kaikaranga coming from Alisiha Mansell at the top. The voices weave together in call and response.
The motorcade's sirens have drawn the attention of a few protestors (unmasked) from across the street and into Parliament's grounds, where they loudly join the original onlookers (masked) who had been watching the arrival of the Governor General designate. Their cries don't exactly meld into the karanga.
The way from Parliament's front door to the Legislative Council Chamber (where the swearing-in will take place), lies through the Grand Hall where there are also audience members.
They stand while the Governor General Designate passes through. In the front row are the three armed forces Service Chiefs and the Clerk of the House of Representatives, David Wilson.
Inside the Legislative Council Chamber the formal welcome continues. Kura Moeahu, Parliament's Tumu Whakarae, offers a mihi whakatau.
Alisiha Mansell joins Kura Moeahu in a chanted waiata with poi as soft percussion. The waiata was Takina nga hau, "which talks about the meetings of the various winds and in this case the wind from the north making its way south to the bustling winds of Wellington." Dame Cindy is from the far north.
Kaumātua to the Governor General, Joe Harawira responds.
In the audience the Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshall Kevin Short, in a white kahu huruhuru, holds the Te Arawa Sword of Gallantry. It was presented by the Queen in 2007 to the whānau of Lance Sergeant Haane Manahi, from her own collection. This Te Arawa taonga is loaned to the Chief of Defence for use during their tenure.
In the dark corners at the back, technicians manage sound, operate video cameras and oversee the outgoing live video feed.
Chief Justice Dame Helen Winkelmann hands the oath to Dame Cindy Kiro. That rehearsal was a very good idea. Cindy Kiro smoothly delivers the two oaths in both English and Māori. All the oathing and juggling of papers and pens goes without a hitch.
Of course after you swear you need to sign on the dotted line (and put money in the swear-jar). Dame Cindy Kiro signs the oaths while Herald of Arms Phillip O'Shea hovers, watching it's done right and waiting for his proclamation, which is up next.
The watching audience includes a large number of previous oath makers like MPs, cabinet ministers, military officers, and here, the Commissioner of New Zealand Police, Andrew Coster.
His epaulette insignia are a fascinating crossed cutlass and truncheon below a crown. That’s charmingly traditional but probably easier to depict than an extendable baton and taser.
The meaning and design of such insignia, but particularly medals, coats of arms, etc are the speciality of a Herald of Arms (in case you were wondering).
The oaths have been made, proclamations given and “GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!” duly shouted by the Herald (yes, it was all in caps and with the exclamation mark in the programme).
Now operatic baritone Samuel McKeever elevates the chamber's already lofty ceiling with a triumphant fortissimo rendition of the National Anthem.
Secretary of the Cabinet and Clerk of the Executive Council Michael Webster stands for the National Anthem. This may be a very plebeian comment, but it’s unusual to be ‘in person’ for the national anthem without the smell of hot chips and beer.
With all the formalities over Jacinda Ardern, seen through the audience, introduces Dame Cindy Kiro. "...It was Dame Cindy’s compassion, knowledge and focus that stood out to me. She was passionate about what she was doing then and she has remained so in every single endeavour and every act of service."
The Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins raises an eyebrow.
And then Dame Cindy Kiro, now “Her Excellency”, also makes an address. Here she is seen from the point of view of the Cook Islands' High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright-Koteka.
Note that the Governor General is also the Governor General for the rest of the 'Realm of New Zealand' (Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and the Ross Dependency).
Seating is an adaptation of the New Zealand Order of Precedence so at the back behind the Executive Council members, are the leaders (or representative in the case of ACT) of the smaller political parties.
The rather grand Legislative Council Chamber was the debating chamber for New Zealand's upper house, until Legislative Council was disestablished in 1951. Now it is the parliamentary space into which the Queen or Governor General are allowed to enter, so speeches from the throne happen here.
At the conclusion of Dame Cindy Kiro’s address Samuel McKeever sings the waiata Ngā Puawai O Ngapuhi. Dame Cindy joins in, along with a number of the audience.
And that ends the ceremony, although not the event. The Governor General heads through to the Grand Hall with her husband Dr Richard Davies and the Prime Minister to sign Parliament’s 'visitors' book'. Parliament's visitors' book may not sound like much, but it is not something tourists leave a note in, unless they are heads of state. It has some pretty cool signatures beginning with the Queen's.
With the main event over and the notables heading through to the grand hall for group portraits the guests mill and catch up with colleagues and friends. Surely this is a chance for a quick multi-lateral realm meeting (plus Samoa).
The High Commissioners: Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan (Samoa), Fisa Igilisi Pihigia (Niue), and Elizabeth Wright-Koteka (Cook Islands); and Charlotte Darlow, who was standing in for the Administrator of Tokelau Ross Ardern (stuck in Waikato’s lock-down).
The Samoan High Commissioner Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan is currently the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps (being the longest serving foreign representative), a title that holds a high position in the order of precedence.
Dame Cindy Kiro poses with her husband Dr Richard Davies after the swearing in. She is wearing a Kahu Kiwi (a high prestige kākahu adorned with kiwi feathers).
It’s a nice moment, and the Prime Minister also wants to snap a quick photo of them on her cellphone before joining Dame Cindy and her husband Dr Davies for an official portrait.
The Governor General cracks up the Prime Minister while they wait for their photo.
All the power in one place.
Having got through the ceremony smoothly and nearly the photos Dame Cindy Kiro gives a friend the double thumbs up as she waits for the next photo. That matching face mask is a great touch.
Cindy Kiro chats with former Governor General Anand Satyanand and his wife Susan Sharpe.
Dame Cindy Kiro greets the Cook Islands High Commissioner Elizabeth Wright-Koteka. Charlotte Darlow looks on.
The Queen's other local, Phillip O'Shea, watches on. As the Herald of Arms Extraordinary I understand that he is part of both the Governor General's and the Queen's official 'Households'.
Outside Parliament House the Governor General’s official ride awaits. Yes that is its official number plate (or lack thereof).
Rather than head home and collapse with a strong cup of tea (or gin), the Governor General’s motorcade heads straight off to Pukeahu National War Memorial Park to join the heads of the armed forces for a formal wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of the unknown warrior.
Long day. Just five years to go.