Bureaucrat of the Week

John Allen hasn’t mentioned bullshit towers but he might be thinking about bullshit missions in places where we don’t need them.

Restructuring at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in which more than 200 jobs or a fifth of its staff are likely to go and some overseas posts closed, is expected to be detailed shortly, the Herald understands.

Plans to cut about 200 of about 900 staff at the ministry were revealed in the State Services Commission’s report on the Government “cap” on public service numbers in September last year.

Chief executive John Allen is understood to have indicated to staff he expects more than 200 jobs to go as the ministry is restructured under Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully’s plan to create “a leaner, more adaptable organisation, better able to meet New Zealand’s future needs”.

While he is at it perhaps he might like to look at New Zealand’s most expensive flat.



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  • Guest

    What does the Embassy in Stockholm actually do? What about the comfy sinecure in Vienna?

    But if MFAT are troughers, then NZDF are the masters of wallowing in the trough on taxpayer funded overseas jaunts. Like the Colonel we have in the Cook Islands (presumbaly to liase with a non-existent army). Or the Air Vice Marshal, the Colonel and the assorted other officers in Washington – representing our battalion and 2 frigates. The size of the defence staff in London is insane. MFAT might be troughers, but they are left for dead by NZDF.

    • EX Navy Greg

      Tend to agree. Some stats here; The navy has 11 ships. there are 45 captains, none of whom serve on a ship. We have two rear admirals FFS, and several commodores, none have been to sea for years. The air force has less than 10 squadrons but 84 squadron leaders, the army is even worse.

  • Anonymous

    Yep, the NZDF gets my vote as the organisation with the most fat.

  • Kiwiinlondon

    Not sure about NZDF but can comment on the MFAT ‘diplomats’ I’ve met here in Taiwan.  There is an army of them that have been posted here for two years – just to learn Mandarin.  That’s right – we have an army of full time MFAT staff in Taipei – JUST learning Mandarin!   After two years, they get posted to Beijing.   Whilst in Taipei, they live in the lap of absolute luxury in the ‘Paratai Drive’ of Taipei,  ‘studying’ Mandarin three hours a day (yes, only three hours per day but getting a full time salary) while their partners swan around shopping – all courtesy of the NZ taxpayer. 

    Like all students, they get holidays between semesters so during these ‘breaks’ they travel around Asia working on their tan!  I’ve listened to them wine about how ‘how hard it is to adjust’ and ‘how the ministry has to compensate them for leaving their support networks in NZ’ .  It was their choice to come here and getting paid to learn Mandarin, go shopping and travel around Asia for two years, sounds like a pretty good deal to me!   It is the most inefficient way to train your staff. It’s a huge cost. Why can’t they go to Beijing and learn Mandarin part time and work part time?  Why do they need to be in Taiwan at all – NZ and Taiwan have no diplomatic relationship.  It’s a complete waste of resources.  I  hear that many of them just do the language learning and then quit anyway as their is nothing in their contracts to actually compel them to go to Beijing.  After two years, they get posted back to Wellington so the investment in their language learning is lost.  I would love to see a cost / benefit model for this one. 

     I remember being at a Toastmasters competition in Wellington and one of the candidates was a senior diplomat. He took the absolute mickey out of being a diplomat – saying it was all about drinking cocktails and talking bullshit.  His speech was funny, but I think I would have found it funnier if it wasn’t New Zealand taxpayers who had for his cocktails and bullshit. Seriously, taking a knife to MFAT is the best news I’ve heard all year!   But it’s not just staff in Wellington that need to be cut – cutting back on luxuries like two years just to learn Mandarin in Taiwan is also essential.  I hope Mr Allen looks far and wide when looking at cutbacks. 

  • Guest

    Having worked at MFAT in the past, I can pretty much guarantee they won’t let go of the policy staff (who would probably be the ones kiwiinlondon mentions) but will drop the admin people first….


    Because in MFAT the culture was “if you’re not a policy officer you’re not worth worrying about”

    • EX Navy Greg

      In my last few years at the NZDF, I had a lot of dealings with MFAT staff, mostly in Asia. Without exception they were top quality people adding value to our foreign trade.
      As for the junket postings in europe, and as you correctly say , the 2 year language immersion courses,for non essential staff, they need to stop. I have a personal friend who spends 80% of his time in an asian country who has worked for MFAT for the last 20 yrs. He did not need to learn mandarin and cantonese at the taxpayers expense, he did it himself.
      The trade agreements that we now have with China were negotiated mostly by this man, which Phil Goff took the credit for.
      Cost to the taxpayer, about $200k per year, added value to our economy, $ priceless.