NSW planning department spent $1.2m on office plants

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday June 10, 2020

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The union representing public servants in New South Wales has questioned the Department of Planning, Industry, and Environment’s decision to spend $1,246,000 on indoor plants for its Parramatta offices.

The three-year contract awarded to Tropical Plant Rentals reportedly covers the supply, installation, watering, maintenance, and replacement of greenery within the offices, but excludes external landscaping costs.

A planning department spokesperson told ABC News the contract would help the department meet its sustainability goals by allowing the 4 Parramatta Square building to obtain a five star rating under the Green Building Council of Australia’s guidelines.

It comes amid a push from the state government to implement a 12-month pause on wage increases for public sector workers, including public servants, nurses, paramedics, and teachers.

Last month Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Treasurer Dominic Perrottet said the plan would “protect public service jobs” and save around $3 billion.

The freeze was recently blocked by upper house MPs from Labor, the Greens and the crossbench, while paramedics took industrial action and other workers protested.

Public Service Association general secretary Stewart Little told The Mandarin the contract was “extraordinary” in light of the circumstances.

“Public sector workers are being asked to tighten their belts and cop a pay freeze, while at the same time millions is being spent on plants, in an office where most people are still likely to be working from home,” he said.

“To have just one department drop more than $1m on fiddle leaf figs and peace lillies — it’s just extraordinary … You’d have to question that when you have $1.2m on indoor plants for an empty office, what else is out there?”

He argued the state government “seems to be ideologically opposed” to the public service.

“They would rather freeze wages than find other savings first,” he said.

“Everyday through this pandemic public sector workers have shown up to keep us safe, and now they’re being thanked with a pay freeze and uncertainty about their jobs.

“This health crisis has obviously had profound economic impacts that we will be navigating for years to come. But the most powerful stimulus for the NSW government is its own workforce. We need the premier to offer certainty to its workforce, and the wider economy by guaranteeing existing jobs and adding new ones.”

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