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London calling – but at what cost?

London calling – but at what cost?

New Zealand taxpayers have forked out $445,000 in rent for Lockwood Smith to live in rented accommodation largely because he or Foreign Affairs felt the $11 million official residence was “inadequate”, Labour’s Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson Phil Goff says.

The former speaker took up his High Commissioner post in London in February 2013.

“However Dr Smith never moved into the official High Commissioner’s residence in Clareville Street, choosing instead to rent another property in the area at a cost of £4000 or $7500 a week.

“The total cost to the taxpayer of that is $445,000 in avoidable rent over the year, enough to employ half a dozen local staff at the High Commission for a year.

“In response to written questions the Ministry has gone to great lengths to point out the property supposedly had ‘limited representational functionality’ – presumably it was not suitable for functions - that it needed security, fire safety glazing and air conditioning work, and that work on a property next door would have been disruptive to the High Commissioner.

“To put it bluntly, that is nonsense. Receptions are always held in the penthouse at New Zealand House, which is centrally located in the Haymarket with spectacular 360º views over London, ensuring receptions there are always popular.The residence is under 10 years old and there were never any complaints from the previous three High Commissioners, plus the High Commissioner does not spend week days working from home.

“A select committee was told today that the property has now been sold for £5.6 million pounds or around $11million. It is hard to believe that such a property could be ‘inadequate’. It is even harder to accept that spending $445,000 on renting another property while the one the Ministry owned remained empty, was the best use of the taxpayer dollar.

“At a time when Foreign Affairs staff were being put through the mincer in a money-saving restructure the extravagance around the High Commissioner’s residence is extraordinary.”


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