ew Zealand's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom is still
living in a $390,000-a-year rented home in one of London's
most upmarket districts while the official residence is
for sale, almost a year after he took up the post.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Sir Lockwood Smith was
not offered the official high commissioner's residence in
Kensington when he moved to London last February.
The ministry is selling that property, at 40 Clareville St,
which is valued in its books at $9.3 million.
In the meantime, Sir Lockwood has been put up in another
plush diplomat's pad, also in Kensington.
Despite the arrangement supposedly being short-term,
taxpayers are still "shelling out $7500 a week without
getting any return on our expenditure", as Labour foreign
affairs spokesman Phil Goff put it.
"Of course the commissioner has to live in an appropriate
residence, but there was nothing wrong with the old
residence," he said.
The ministry confirmed yesterday they had entered into a
conditional agreement to sell the property.
Jordan Williams of the Taxpayers' Union, a watchdog on
political spending, questioned why it was taking so long to
sell the residence.
"The last time I looked the London property market is
Sir Lockwood, 65, has settled quickly into the London
diplomatic scene. On Friday he was guest speaker at a
function for The Worshipful Company of Vintners, a trade
He used the occasion to argue that too many "great New
Zealand wines" are unavailable in London, trade publication
Drinks Business reported.
Sir Lockwood said he struggled to find top New Zealand
chardonnays in his favourite restaurants and shops there.
"Our best chardonnays are stunning and they are not available
in London," he said, adding that he had to bring them across
New Zealand Winegrowers said it was an honour that a Kiwi was
invited to speak at such an "august" institution as the
"There are also a lot of small producers of chardonnay who
don't export, who make fantastic wines, and that's probably
what Sir Lockwood is talking about, having to tuck a few
bottles into his bag to take over with him,'' global
marketing director Chris Yorke.
New Zealand exports 4.9 million litres of chardonnay a year,
compared to 150 million litres of sauvignon blanc, and 9.8
million litres of pinot noir.
The UK, which was for years the biggest market for New
Zealand wine exporters, has now slipped behind Australia and
"New Zealand wine tells such a good story about us,'' said Mr
Yorke. "It's a high quality product, it comes from many
regions, it's sustainable, and at consumption, it is
identifiably from New Zealand.''