Cost-cuts envoy out flat-hunting

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 February, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 February, 2001, 12:00am

The consul-general of New Zealand has been ordered to move out of his multimillion-dollar Mid-Levels apartment and look for rented accommodation, New Zealand's Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

Dr James Kember is one of four top New Zealand diplomats whose high-cost residences in some of the world's most expensive cities have been targeted for sale as part of a cost-cutting exercise.

A property agent estimated the four-bedroomed apartment in Barker Road, Mid-Levels, to be worth about $50 million.

The asking price will be determined once the property goes on the market, which is understood to be before the end of March. Another agent said property values in the area generally started at about $10,000 per square foot.

New Zealand Vice-Consul Vivian Ip said yesterday the consul- general did not wish to make any comment.

The other residences to be sold are those of the high commissioner and deputy high commissioner in London and that of the permanent representative to the United States in New York. The four properties have a combined value of more than $100 million.

New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement yesterday the move from owned to rented accommodation was aimed at reducing costs and releasing capital for investment in other higher-priority activities, such as information technology.

'The disposals are part of an ongoing programme to reduce the ministry's investment in high-cost real estate overseas when cheaper rental alternatives are available,' Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Neil Walter said.

He said while renting properties in high-cost cities was still expensive, the move would result in a virtual halving of the amount paid for accommodation.

The owned properties cost New Zealand more than $10 million a year in capital charges, depreciation and upkeep.