October 25, 2013
Reporter for The Canberra Times
The New Acton Nishi building. Photo: Katherine Griffiths
The federal government is rethinking its commitment to its $158 million lease at Canberra’s landmark Nishi building.
The building, occupied by 740 bureaucrats in the now-defunct Department of Climate Change in late 2012, was a key target when the Coalition in opposition with the Liberals holding it up as a symbol of Labor waste.
Climate Change has now been absorbed into the Department of the Environment which is preparing to axe 150 jobs in the next two months, and future of the lease remains hostage to the complex “machinery of government” movements currently underway in Canberra in the wake of Coalition’s shake-up of the bureaucracy.
The office of Environment Minister Greg Hunt confirmed that “the lease is under review as s part of the machinery of government changes.”
A spokesman for the Industry Department, which still overseas Climate Change while its move to Environment is finalised, was less forthcoming refusing to answer questions about the future of the occupancy at Nishi or even how many of the original 740 officials remained on site.
“The Nishi Building currently provides office accommodation for former Climate Change employees (transferring to the Department of Environment), with some of the space currently occupied by the Department of Industry,” the spokesman said in a statement.
“Numbers have fluctuated throughout the past 10 months since occupation in December 2012 as a result of various machinery of government changes.”
Greg Hunt, who is now Environment Minister, described the 15-year lease as one of the worst property deals for the Commonwealth in 20 years, pledging to review the arrangement and explore options to vacate and sub-let the spaces.
Mr Hunt’s colleague Jamie Briggs said the six-star energy-rated offices were “an unbelievable reckless waste of Australian taxpayers’ money.”
The department pleaded that the move to Nishi had actually saved money by allowing the disposal of its old offices on Constitution Avenue and Allara Street.
Climate Change bureaucrats have had a tumultuous time since moving into Nishi with an announcement in April their numbers would be slashed from 920 to 480.
Their department was merged in March the with then Industry Department which become known as the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and will now revert back to simply being the Industry Department
Climate Change, meanwhile, went back into the Environment Department in a move that has not been completed.
The Canberra Times