Government pays $260,000 a month for empty offices

The sacking of 14,000 public servants has left an oversupply of office space in Brisbane’s CBD. Photo: Louie Douvis office space

The Queensland Government is paying more than $260,000 per month for unused office space in Brisbane’s CBD.

Offices leased by the government have been vacated and left empty for months since 14,000 jobs were cut from the public sector.

There are 6284 square metres of unoccupied space in privately leased buildings in the CBD, costing the government $267,000 per month, according to figures from the Department of Public Works.

‘‘In terms of cost, the rents across the government office portfolio reflect the commercial market rates that were applicable at the time of entering into or renewing office leases,’’ a department spokesman said.

With Brisbane’s office vacancy rate at its highest level in 20 years, the government has been unable to sub-lease the space to offload or reduce the rent cost.

In Brisbane’s CBD and CBD fringe, the state government occupies office space across 40 commercially leased and government-owned buildings, providing about 29,000 work stations for public servants.

The department spokesman said the government planned to have no more than 4 per cent of its office stock empty in the 2013-14 financial year.

But the government could still be paying for the unused space in two years’ time.

‘‘This unoccupied space is expected to reduce to a minimal level over the next two years as leases expire, or space is reassigned or sublet to other government or private sector groups,’’ he said.

Earlier this year, the government struck a $562 million deal to sell the bulk of its office buildings to funds controlled by the state-owned QIC (formerly known as Queensland Investment Corporation) to pay down state debt.

Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said it was evident the government’s decision to sell the buildings and lease office space instead was ‘‘poorly planned and financially cavalier’’.

‘‘Queenslanders were told the Government had done a good deal for tax-payers, but we have already exposed that it was a dud,’’ he said.

‘‘Tax-payers will rightly be angry to learn that [Queensland Treasurer] Tim Nicholls’ lack of analytical rigour and evaluation, not to mention his Government’s rush to sack thousands of public servants, is costing them so much.

‘‘To pay more than $3 million a year to lease offices no-one uses is a shambles and Mr Nicholls should explain the details in full.’’

The government quietly sold the buildings, which account for about 7 per cent of all office space in Brisbane’s CBD, after announcing plans to slowly move public servants into its new $653 million headquarters to be built at 1 William Street.

Preliminary work started on the riverfront block in the new year, with the building to be completed by the end of 2016.

The buildings sold include the David Longland Building at 63 George Street, Education House at 54 Mary Street, the Primary Industries Building at 62-80 Ann Street and Mineral House at 41 George Street.

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