Parata: Money spent on renovations 'prudently managed'


An airport-style transit lounge, designer furniture and a multi-million dollar staircase. No, it's not Grand Designs; it's the taxpayer-funded renovation job at the Ministry of Education.

A cool $19.5 million was spent up just across the road from the Beehive and Education Minister Hekia Parata says it was money "prudently managed."

The upgrade includes new hot-desks and breakout areas, with designer couches and solid ash tables. The furnishing cost $3.3 million along meaning just under $3000 was spent per staff member.

And to get the staff up to their hot-desk, 12 storeys and $2.5 million dollars has been spent on the newly dubbed "stairway to heaven".

In a staff brainstorming phase, an Air New Zealand-style Koru Lounge was proposed and Ms Parata denies that's what new space resembles.

"I'm pretty familiar with Koru Lounges and it doesn't look like that," she says.

Chief executive Peter Hughes says the refurbishment is part of a plan to merge four Ministry offices into to one.

"We're spending money to save money. Nearly $2 million dollars a year and there's more to come."

The $19.5 million was spent doing up the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) building.

The irony for taxpayer is that MBIE moved down the road and spent $15 million doing that up - coming under fire for lavish spending on a do-up that even included hair straighteners.

Mr Hughes says the two different organisations have different requirements.

"It's apples and oranges if you want compare us with MBIE."

Labour has said the money should have gone on fixing up leaky classrooms

But the Ministry says the changes will allow them save money over time, saying already they've already saved on toll calls by not installing telephones and are instead making staff use Skype.