The chief executive of the Ministry of Education is defending his new $2.6 million staircase dubbed the "stairway to heaven".
The grand staircase is part of a $19.5 million refurbishment of the former Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment offices on Wellington's Bowen St.
Chief executive Peter Hughes says the move will save the ministry up to $1.8 million dollars a year.
Changes include making staff use a hotdesk system.
"This is part of the culture change in the ministry," he says.
Mr Hughes admits the cost of furniture alone is close to $3000 per staff member.
Opposition MPs have questioned why the ministry is spending on such an extravagant building when there are schools waiting for funding to fix leaky classrooms.
But Mr Hughes says even if he wanted to he couldn't pump the $20M into that.
"The Parliament has appropriated this money for this purpose."
Documents released by the ministry detail plans for a $2.6m grand staircase running from the ground floor to the top of the building, a "Koru Lounge" style waiting and meeting space on level one, and a plaza on level two for formal and informal meetings.
"This extravagant spending comes as schools are asking more and more from parents because the government is under-funding the sector," Mr Hipkins said.
"It is appalling that children around the country are sitting in old, leaking and mouldy classrooms in desperate need of repair, while ministry staff will get first class offices."
Most of the ministry's Wellington-based staff moved into the new building at the beginning of January.
Mr Hughes estimated the ministry would save about $27m over the period of the 15-year lease.
"We're talking about an older building that we're recycling if you like, it's not some flash brand new glowing building in the CBD," Mr Hughes told the Paul Henry programme this morning.
He also said the "Koru Lounge" was part of the original plans, but it didn't go ahead.
Newshub. / NZN