By Peter Wilson
Steven Joyce is justifying the cost of his ministry's new website.
The senior cabinet minister says it would have cost a lot more to upgrade and maintain the four websites it has replaced.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's new website went live yesterday, and the first media release revealed it cost $559,872 to create it.
Just two months ago MBIE was under fire for putting up a sign outside its new premises that cost $67,000 and spending $140,000 on a curved information screen in the reception area.
The Labour Party and spending watchdog the Taxpayers' Union have zeroed in on the cost of the new website as more evidence of extravagance.
Mr Joyce has justified the cost in a statement to NZ Newswire.
"MBIE is the government's primary agency for working and regulating the commercial sector, with responsibility for around 140 separate laws of parliament and about 20 significant regulatory regimes," he said.
"It is required to communicate extensively with a large range of stakeholders and its website is one important means to do so."
Mr Joyce says he's confident the cost of setting up the website was "significantly less expensive than a number of other recent central and local government website builds" and less than the cost of separately upgrading and maintaining the four websites that were previously used.
The ministry was set up three years ago by merging several government departments.
After the row about the spending on the new sign and the curved screen, Mr Joyce said he was "disappointed" and had told the ministry to be more careful.
Its chief executive, David Smol, issued an apology.
Labour's economic development spokesman, David Clark, says Mr Joyce is taking an arrogant approach.
"The minister will no doubt claim the new website came in under budget, but his gold-plated spending on his ministry shows how out of touch the government has become," he said.
The Taxpayers' Union described the cost of the new website as extraordinary.
"The very officials who should be reducing the burden of government to let New Zealanders further their own lot are the ones spending up large with money pinched from taxpayers' pockets," said executive director Jordan Williams.