NSW ministers forced to sacrifice Harbour Views

By Paul Hemsley

The iconic views of Sydney Harbour once par for the course in the plush office suits of New South Wales government ministers are set to become a perk of the past after the O’Farrell government revealed it will be vacating Governor Macquarie Tower (GMT) to move a few city blocks downtown to 52 Martin Place.

The great southern migration of government ministers, the Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Treasury is being spruiked as a saving of to taxpayers of $90 million over the term of a new 12 year lease, with the proceeds to be redirected to its frontline services.

While the top-notch tenancy is highly unlikely to be left vacant, the shift has come at a good time to go shopping for new floorspace thanks to elevated commercial office vacancy rates in Sydney the CBD that the Property Council put at 8.9 per cent in July 2013.

The move of the ministerial wing comes on the back of a pre-election pledge to not renew the lease at GMT – which is set to expire in December 2014 – that was used to bolster criticisms lavish level of spending on ministerial offices.

The O’Farrell government’s push on “savings” and “efficiencies” will also see ministers get smaller offices in a bid to reduce “the cost of accommodating ministers and central government agencies”.

Ministerial office space will be reduced by approximately 18 per cent compared to their existing tenancies at GMT.

The money being saved is not insignificant. The cost of renting space at Martin Place is around $250 per square metre cheaper compared with GMT, a firm indication of what a water view is worth.

Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance said the NSW Government is committed to driving efficiencies and ensuring office space is used more effectively.

The O’Farrell government’s movement to slash costs is not limited to moving its ministers downtown.

The Department of Finance and Services also announced in October 2013 that it will outsource the management of its office accommodation requirements.

This new managerial restructure of the state’s leasehold and freehold office portfolio would mean 830 properties covering 1.4 million square metres of office space across NSW would fall into the hands of commercial operators.

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