I was interested and astonished to be notified of this article on NZ Stuff on the 22nd of September. It covers the topic of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, MFAT, looking for a new office building, either new or existing into which they can move by June 2025.
The building would need to be ready for staff to move into by June 1, 2025.
Ordinarily, there is nothing odd about this apart from the fact that MFAT, like most Government Departments, has become extremely bloated under this Labour Government. Indeed, this seems to be the norm under Labour Governments, but has seemingly reached gargantuan proportions under this Government, even pre-COVID. I suspect a lot of this is the creation of overpaid woke positions and/or departments as with the SIS recently.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is set to move its head office, with its lease on Wellington’s HSBC Tower expiring in 2025.
The contract expires in 2025, but MFAT will not renew its contract.
MFAT published an expression of interest on the government tender website, calling for a developer or landlord to provide an existing building, or develop a new building, on suitable land.
This is the vaguely stated reason to move buildings; ‘requirements’.
While MFAT did not say why the contract with HSBC Tower owners Credit Suisse would not be renewed, or whether renewal was an option, Stuff understands the ministry’s requirements have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It seems Stuff’s ever diligent, woke teenage reporters never thought to investigate further and simply accepted the spin given to them by MFAT.
What is odd is the present activity at MFAT. I have a few casual contacts about the place and one is presently working in MFAT. They informed me some time ago of a major multi-million dollar refurbishment project at their present building, HSBC Tower in Lambton Quay. There are a multitude of reasons given for this including;
Covid-19 saw an influx of diplomats returning from overseas, leading to a higher number of MFAT staff working at the head office.
The past few years had also seen growth in the number of diplomats, following the 2018 Budget where 50 new diplomatic spots were announced. MFAT has about 1800 staff in total.
We can only assume this is part of the mysterious ‘requirements’.
Apparently, they have dealt with this by having staff work from home on a range of options from occasionally to set days a week. This apparently is a legacy from the late March 2020 lockdown.
This project also includes the dire, in my opinion, option of hot desks. They are apparently disguising this with fluff terminology around ‘flexible working’ and ‘new ways of working’ and supposedly any verbal contortion to avoid saying ‘hot desks’ including giving it a fluffy woke Maori name, Mahi Animata, as a sop to wokeness and obscurity.
It also scandalously involves dumping perfectly good office furniture for costly new furniture that is smaller. You would think this was to fit in more staff. Alas no. Staff will still be stuck working at home. Apparently, it is to create space for ‘collaboration’ areas with couches, trendy chairs and cute tables for staff to lounge about and do collaboration type fluffy stuff in comfort and fashionable ease.
My contact has described it as a cross between a trendy urban elite’s vision of a fantasy primary school and a dire airport lounge and a huge waste of valuable desk space. It also involves removing desk storage and forcing staff to use tediously small staff lockers reminiscent of an up-market version of something from an American High School that are built into the walls and ergo costly.
The project is due to be finished late this year.
The first thing that strikes me, if the descriptions are true and I have no reason to doubt that, is the monumental cost when there are few if any gains to building a new staff area. The main reason to do it seems to be more a sop to feel-good fluff and trendy nonsense from the out of touch, elite, upper-middle-class management of MFAT indulging in fantasies and grabbing on late to the coattails of a tired private-sector trend.
The second thing, and this is the main one, why spend all this money on a project like this when you intend to move out of the building, effectively three and a half years after the refurbishment’s completion? From a fiscal point of view, especially with a Government up to its ears in debt and borrowing like a gambler in Vegas, it is a frivolous piece of nonsense when you could do all this at the new building.
The one thing this reveals is why the FAT is in MFAT. I’d expect taxpayers would prefer more practical thinking and fiscal prudence and a pruning of the FAT.
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