mfat japan

$1 million for new pool despite MFAT job cuts

28 February 2012: Almost $1 million of taxpayers’ money has been put towards a swimming pool at the New Zealand embassy in Japan despite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs losing one fifth of its staff.

An eight-year upgrade at the embassy in Tokyo has seen $903,304 set aside for the project with more than half a million being spent this financial year.

Another $93,000 was earmarked to be spent in the next financial year with 16 apartments, a new badminton court area and gym all included in the Tokyo upgrade.

Last week, the Ministry announced that embassies would be closing, 305 jobs would be cut and an outsourced consular hotline for distressed New Zealanders overseas as part of a proposed radical overhaul.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully said of the money spent on the pool project:

“At a time when there’s three hundred jobs up for grabs within the Ministry there’s a need for the Ministry to show some restraint on the capital expenditure side of things and I’ve asked them to do that,” he told OneNews.

Mr McCully said he was asking whether the embassy needed a pool.

Labour foreign affairs spokesperson Phil Goff said there was a “perverted sense of priority”.

“It is totally nice to have but luxury and unnecessary when core roles are being lost in the Ministry.”

The cutbacks announced last week are part of a broader squeeze on the public service, as the Government seeks to create a leaner and more efficient state sector.

About 600 staff will have to reapply for jobs. The ministry has set aside a fund to cope with inevitable redundancy pay-outs.

The changes would save $20m to $25m a year.

Staff at the Ministry had a month for feedback and a final decision was expected on April 10.

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