The Ministry of Education (MoE) has spent almost $20 million on a redesign of its new office block, including $2.5m on a 12 floor staircase named “the Stairway to Heaven” by the Opposition.
The MoE said the revamp of Matauranga House, in Bowen Street just up the road from Treasury, will come in $3m under budget and save $27m on accommodation and running costs over the 15 year term of the lease.
But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the cost was over the top.
“Huge expenditure like this on a gold-plated office will certainly stick in the craw of teachers and student up and down the country. Is this the Stairway to Heaven? It would need to lead to somewhere pretty special for that sort of money,” Hipkins said.
Gold-plated because it has a stairwell?
An MoE spokeswoman said the staircase was needed because there were only four lifts in the building and eventually it would have 25 per cent more staff than when MBIE occupied it. There would also be an estimated 1000 visitors a month.
It was not “a Stairway to Heaven” but was the cheapest way to handle the extra traffic. The alternative – a fifth lift – would have cost up to $4m.
Choosing a stairwell over a fifth lift is an excellent idea. Not only is it $1.5 million cheaper, but it means staff and visitors can use the stairwell to go between floors, rather than have to use the lifts. So it is good for fitness, and saves money. Plus lifts have notoriously high ongoing maintenance costs.
MoE had been working out of four buildings in Wellington and those leases were due to expire early this year. The revamp had been funded out of existing baselines. The office space was 6000 sq metres less than its previous premises, down from 22,500 square metres to about 16,500.
So what Chris Hipkins is attacking is that the Ministry has reduced the size of its office space by 27% and has a lease and running costs $27 million cheaper over 15 years than previously?
I know the role of the opposition is to attack wasteful spending (as the Taxpayers union does also). But sometimes spending isn’t wasteful, but actually saves money. I think Chris could benefit with better targeting.
Other changes would see phone costs cut by about $330,000 through scrapping traditional desk phones and providing staff with headsets and Skype
Good to see smart use of technology.
Eventually all staff would “hot desk” with only a locker but no desk of their own – a first for a government department or ministry. The design was open plan, and even chief executive Peter Hughes did not have his own office.
Which presumably is how they have managed to reduce their floor size by 6,000 square metres.