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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:18 pm

The unseen faces behind the change of government

Jim Robb in front of a fraction of the boxes they moved

While most Kiwis spent Labour Weekend relaxing, a seismic shift was happening in Parliament buildings.

Parliamentary Services had the jobs of moving 700-plus people between the three parliament office building, the Beehive, Parliament House and Bowen House.

Manager of the move Jim Robb says they planned for the general election four to five months leading up to it.

“We plan under multiple scenarios” says Mr Robb.

“Change of government being the worst case, biggest volume of moves, or no change of government.”

The formation of this government was a particular challenge, due to it being a coalition.

“Through the coalition, New Zealand First managed to get four of its ministers sitting inside the Beehive,” says Mr Robb.

“That means New Zealand First has half their party in the Beehive and half in Bowen house.”

The move itself took the whole long weekend.

Everyone had to be packed and off the premises by 3pm on October 20, and at 4pm they started moving boxes.

It took 70 people from 4pm to midnight to empty all the offices and take everything down to the ground floor.

Saturday morning was dedicated to moving the boxes between buildings, before finally starting the uplift, which took all Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.

In total they moved around 10 000 cardboard boxes.

“It just sounds nuts, but people retain books and statutes and manuals, it’s a paper-based historical environment,” says Mr Robb.

An election is a stressful time at Parliamentary services because staff who work for MP’s are on events-based contacts.

“About 500 staff effectively get put on notice, effective of the Friday before the General Election.”

MPs are allowed to keep their administrative staff, or say they want new ones, in which case their original administration staff get put in a pool available for reallocation.

“It’s like everyone who plays top line sport waiting to get into the Silver Ferns or the Black Caps or the All Blacks,” says Mr Robb. “You either make it or you don’t.”

With the post-election period beginning to wrap up, Parliamentry Services will start to go back to their normal job.

It involves making sure 120 MPs are well feed and looked after, maintaining the Parliamentary Precinct building and grounds, and keeping Parliament secure while ensuring it remains the most accessible Parliament in the western world.

As Jim Robb says, “it’s taxing, it’s tiring and it’s uber exciting.”

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