20 May 2012

MFAT cuts 'will increase policy staff workload'

12:10 pm on 20 May 2012

A former senior diplomat says job cuts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will put undue pressure on policy staff in Wellington.

On Thursday, the ministry confirmed that 23 foreign policy and 56 corporate services jobs would be axed in a restructuring which would save $10 - $12 million a year.

Terence O'Brien told Radio New Zealand's Sunday Morning programme that while proposed cuts originally focused on overseas postings, the final version is centred on job reductions in Wellington.

Mr O'Brien, now senior fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University, said the cuts mean about one third of the 70 policy staff based in the capital will lose their jobs.

"They're going to get a larger workload with thirty percent less policy people and that sounds on the face of it to be a pretty dangerous basis on which to try and conduct your foreign policy."

Mr O'Brien said it appears Foreign Minister Murray McCully is keen to remove senior staff at the ministry and replace them with younger people which he says this will only create a similar log-jam in the future.