NZ government shells out $11m on New York apartment for UN representative

The New Zealand Government has bought a pad in Zeckendorf’s 50 UN Plaza, in New York.

The New Zealand Government has bought a pad in Zeckendorf’s 50 UN Plaza, in New York.

The Government has shelled out almost $11 million on a luxury New York apartment for our man at the United Nations.

Gerard van Bohemen, who was previously deputy secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and responsible for multilateral and legal affairs, was appointed New Zealand's new permanent representative at the United Nations in February.

The US$7.9 million pied-a-terre in Manhattan's Zeckendorf Development's 50 United Nations Plaza lists the buyer as "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of New Zealand".

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A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed the apartment in New York had been bought as the residence for the Head of Mission.

He said it cost $10,975,228.

"This follows a decision to sell the old residence, which is now on the market."

READ MORE: What else does $11m buy?

It is understood the most recent valuation of the old residence was about $5.5m, but it is expected to be sold at a good premium above that and the Ministry would not sell at a discount.

The spokesman said the new property would be a working space as well as a residence. 

"The layout will be used for diplomatic meetings and functions. The higher ongoing maintenance costs and the distance from the UN building meant the older residence was determined as no longer fit for purpose."   

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He said New York property costs were high and growing, and it was determined that the purchase of a new property represented better long-term value to the taxpayer than leasing a property.

"The ministry's independent external advisors – the Overseas Property Advisory Panel – endorsed purchase as the preferred option. The cost of the new property will be offset by the sale of the old residence."

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One of the three bedrooms in Gerard van Bohemen's New York digs.

Labour foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said the purchase was outrageous.

"While Kiwis are working hard to afford their own house the Government is buying lavish penthouses ... frankly it's outrageous," he said.

"Two years ago Foreign Minister Murray McCully gutted the best staff out of the ministry and now he's using that money to splash out on a flash New York pad."

Green Party spokesman Kennedy Graham said Mfat had misjudged what was an appropriate use of taxpayers' money, and it was unwise to spend so much on an apartment for a public servant.

"This is just another case of wasteful spending by a ministry already under fire for its use of the public purse. We know apartments in Manhattan are expensive, but an 80sqm apartment comes to an average of $1.5 million," he said.

"If Murray McCully and Mfat don't want to come under repeated scrutiny for their spending habits, they need start making better and more transparent public cases for their spending."

Mfat owns 92 properties overseas and leases another 217.

"It regularly assesses its property portfolio to ensure it offers value for money and matches with business needs," said the Mfat spokesman.

The ministry's capital budget, which includes its property portfolio, was $76.5m in the 2015/16 Budget.

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The Manhattan pied-a-terre is decked out in sleek, modern finishes.

It is not hard to see the appeal of the luxury development.

Spanning 279 square metres, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom pad has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the East River.

Designed by Sir Norman Foster, the elite condominium complex features a 23-metre swimming pool, sauna, steam and massage rooms and gym.


Did the Government get good value for money with the Manhattan property? 

Well, here's some other prime real estate on offer in the city that never sleeps - admittedly, in some cases, with a bit more of a walk to the office for the chief of mission.

1. 502 PARK AVENUE, $4,995,000 (NZ$7.2m)

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This two-bedroom apartment is found on one of the city's most desirable streets, with key features including solid oak floors, majestic crown molding and hand-crafted Italian brass doorknobs

2. 415 GREENWICH STREET, $5,749,000 (NZ$8.3m)

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This four-bedroom townhouse is split over three levels, and comes with two walk-in closets and a 24-hour concierge.

3. 721 FIFTH AVENUE, $4,995,000 (NZ$7.2m)

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This two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment is part of the world-famous Trump Towers, and comes with a valet and maid service.

* A previous version of this article stated the Queen had bought the apartment. We apologise for the error.

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