New Zealand's embassy in Stockholm is one of a number of posts slated for closure in the Government's rejig of Foreign Affairs and Trade which will also result in the loss of about 260 jobs, says former foreign affairs minister Phil Goff.
The Herald yesterday reported more than 200 jobs were likely to go in a restructuring of the ministry, to be announced soon. However, Mr Goff, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, said he understood from "government sources" the number was 260.
A ministry spokesman said "proposals for change" were being developed that would result in 200 jobs being lost. Staff and unions would be consulted next month and final decisions would be made by the end of March with the cuts starting shortly after.
"Changes are expected to result in a smaller ministry, with a new business model, simpler systems and improved technology," he said. "The changes will ensure we have the right people in the right places, doing the right things, at the right time in the right way."
The Herald understands a number of overseas posts will be closed, a prospect acknowledged by Foreign Minister Murray McCully last year. Mr Goff said yesterday several sources had told him the embassy in Stockholm would be one of them.
The ministry spokesman said no proposals for the closure of overseas posts had so far been put to the Cabinet, which decided such matters.
Mr Goff believed it was sensible to look for savings in administration, finance and property management but the department was generally well respected internationally for its efficiency and effectiveness, despite modest resources.
The number of jobs being cut would inevitably affect the department's ability to represent New Zealand's trade and political interests around the world.
Another former foreign affairs minister, New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, said: "If you compare New Zealand's overseas presence with Singapore and Norway, two similar sized countries, you will see that we have less than 40 per cent of their international effort. That is why those countries are flourishing and we keep sliding further down the OECD ... It is short-sighted cost-cutting that will actually cost a lot more than it will save in the long run."