At Parliament, red-carpet-days are much less common than red-letter-days. But opening a new Parliament is two huge days in a row. The Commission Opening, followed by the State Opening. That is worthy of wooly redness.
For carpet aficionados, the trick is the stair rods. Without them the loose carpet would make Parliament’s formal entrance a 35-step marble death trap.
With Parliament’s carpet runway ready, the main event can begin. The Commission Opening begins at the Supreme Court, where three Commissioners appointed by the Governor General begin a trek to Parliament led by the Sheriff of the Supreme Court.
It’s not a long trek, the Supreme Court is barely a block away. Charmingly it's an opportunity to cross two busy roads in single-file, like a judicial version of John, Paul, George and Ringo. (Judiciously, no jaywalking occurred. Probably wise with police marking the route.)
Parliament’s entrance is both grander and more kiwi than last time this occurred.
Inside the elected and re-elected MPs have been catching up with friends and foes and while waiting for the kick off. Here Te Pāti Māori's Rawiri Waititi welcomes ACT MP Mark Cameron.
Upon arrival the Commissioners are joined by the so-called Black Rod who gains permission to enter the Chamber. They attend on behalf of the Governor General who cannot enter Parliament’s Debating Chamber.
The movement of Governors General is bounded within Parliament by the carpet. They can only go to places with red carpet. The green zone (like the debating chamber) is out of bounds to the Sovereign and their representatives. Hence the Commissioners.
The Commissioners’ stay is brief. They bring delegated authority and an invite for the following day - for MPs to come and hear the Speech from the Throne next door in the former Upper House (red carpet).
Authority has been delegated in order for the Clerk of the House of Representatives to swear in the MPs.
On this occasion the MPs are sworn in individually. It makes for a long ceremony. By its conclusion some MPs look like they are rethinking their decision to return.
There are points of interest though. Particularly from Te Pāti Māori MPs who each swear an extra oath, to uphold the tikanga of the Treaty of Waitangi and bear allegiance to future generations.
One can also stay awake by trying to remember the names of new MPs and trying to see what they have chosen to be sworn in on. Scripture from Christian, Ratana and Ringatu faiths are obvious. As well as treaty and declaration of independence documents. Teanau Tuiono uses a Ranginui Walker book. There is a volume of whakatauki for children. Here new Green MP Scott Willis wins the title for heaviest volume. Surely a family bible with ancestry noted in the front.
Once the MPs present are all sworn in, the remaining task is to elect a Speaker. Gerry Brownlee stands unopposed (after Adrian Rurawhe turns down a Te Pāti Māori nomination to oppose him).
And so the legislative branch has a new boss.
The new speaker is only Speaker-elect until he is confirmed by the Governor General, so there is a lunchtime change of location to Government House to meet the Governor General.
Gerry Brownlee seems confident and ready to get stuck into work. He even manages to beat his retinue to the gig.
They do catch him before the ceremony begins though. He is preceded by the Serjeant at Arms, three Clerks of the House, and the Chief Executive of the Parliament Service.
Gerry Brownlee presents his credentials and requests that the Governor General accept the ongoing understandings of the Sovereign-Parliament relationship and the rights of Parliament. She does - phew.
This is not a private conflab. The Prime Minister, Chief Justice, senior MPs and so forth are also in attendance.
Even King Charles III is there in spirit. Though his temporary portrait doesn’t come close to the gorgeous painting of his mother that previously hung in the same spot.
At that point the day is pretty much over except the after-match function for VIPs.
Or you might think so. Back at Parliament they are already setting up for a dress rehearsal for the State Opening the next day. Here the Army, Navy and Airforce get their ducks in order for the Defence Force components.
Including chalking out the forecourt to get three Services marching to the same length stride. Or at least I think that’s what the Navy are doing. Visiting onlookers are equally fascinated.
Meanwhile inside, the fanfare has arrived in the guise of the New Zealand Army Band. Pomp and circumstance in camo. You can definitely hear them coming, you just can’t see them.