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$1.3m upgrade to Niue MFAT residence stopped

Wednesday 29 Feb 2012 5:32 p.m.

By Duncan Garner

The Government has stepped in and stopped a lavish $1.3 million planned upgrade of the New Zealand High Commission's residence on the tiny Pacific island of Niue.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says it is barking mad to spend this money when staff are being sacked, despite a $20 million dollar upgrade going ahead elsewhere.

The High Commission has just three staff in the Pacific atoll of just 1100 people, led by High Commissioner, former National MP Mark Blumsky.

But Foreign Affairs bosses wanted to gold plate his Niue residence - with a $1.3 million upgrade while the Government sacked 305 staff in Wellington.

Phil Goff questioned this move today.

“Is the Ministry getting ready to spend $1.33 million dollars to refurbish the residence in Niue?”

And Mr McCully said yes that was the plan - but he blocked it last month.

“This was brought to my attention by High Commissioner Blumsky who told me it was barking mad ... And I agreed with that assessment.”

Mr McCully has put on hold $45 million of capital spending this year, including almost $1 million on a pool for the chancery in Tokyo.

He says he cannot justify it while staff get sacked.

“There should be no non-essential capital works go ahead in an environment where staffing losses were under discussion."

However some building projects will go ahead, including a massive $20 million on rebuilding the New Zealand embassy in Beijing.

Mr Goff also claimed that the London embassy residence is up for a $2.5 million upgrade.

But Mr McCully says he has stopped that.

“The Ministry wanted some exemptions ... and London did not feature on that list."

3 News also understands the Government has decided to sell New Zealand House in central London - where our High Commission is based.

“We own the building, not the land - it's worth millions of pounds,” Mr McCully says.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has for years avoided change and restructure, but one senior Government Minister told me today "the gold plated and lavish tastes of these self important bureaucrats are finally coming to an end".

3 News

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