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Waste Watch: Transpower spend $1.2million on a cafe and reception

What's the difference between a 'cafe-style space' and a cafe?

Not a lot, but according to the government-owned monopoly Transpower, a $1.2million 'cafe-style space' is value for money unlike asking staff to visit the dozen cafes within a few hundred metres of its Wellington office building.

In 2012, the taxpayer owned company spent $1.2million refurbishing its reception and building "The Wire" a place where, according to Transpower CEO Patrick Strange, "we can engage and collaborate with each other, and with our guests."

Back in September, a Taxpayer's Union volunteer asked about the new cafe Transpower had built at 96 The Terrace, Wellington. It seems that calling it a "cafe" caused some offence. Transpower said (even bolding the text to emphasis the point):

The space on the ground level of Transpower House is not a café – it is a space for Transpower staff to meet internally and with our key stakeholders. 

We were told that the combined cost of the cafe space and adjacent reception area was $1.2million.

Unfortunately, Transpower would not initially tell us how long its lease for the building had remaining. After some haggling, we learned that the current lease expires in 2014.

Is $1.2million on a cafe and reception value for money?

According to Patrick Strange, yes. It turns out it's coffee that keeps the nations lights on. He told us that it had changed the "whole culture of the organisation" and that the decision to build the cafe was the "best decision" he'd ever made.

Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck...

Let's call a spade a spade. It is ridiculous for Transpower to justify this amount. The cost works out at around $65,000 per month for the time left on the lease of 96 The Terrace. This is a taxpayer-owned, state monopoly that has thrown money into building an exclusive cafe in the middle of Wellington's CBD. This is while at the same time, it is borrowing more, appealing a Commerce Commission decision with the hope it can charge more.

A quick look at Google shows just how starved Transpower staff are for choice...



The original correspondence is below (some names are redacted) with a PDF copy here.


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