Spending on oil barons draws criticism

By Derek Cheng

Minister says $22,000 on food and drink over four days isn’t a misuse of Government money.

Simon Bridges. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Simon Bridges. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Green Party is angry that the Government forked out $22,000 on food and drink and $37,000 on luxury accommodation to woo 11 oil executives over four days during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Energy Minister Simon Bridges is defending the spending because Statoil - one of nine international oil and gas companies that were wined and dined - eventually signed up for an oil exploration permit.

Mr Bridges yesterday revealed the breakdown of the $237,000 in taxpayers' money that went towards the New Zealand Oil & Gas Summit 2011.

It included:

• $22,000 on catering, including meals at top restaurants Martin Bosley's and Logan Brown

• $37,000 on accommodation at the Intercontinental Hotel

• $12,000 on corporate box Rugby World Cup hosting

• $10,000 on activities, including a sailing trip and a winery tour

• $20,000 on a welcome reception

• $40,000 on a one-day seminar

The remaining $96,000 is understood to have gone towards event and project management.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said it was another example of New Zealand taking on the environmental risks of oil drilling, "While the foreign oil corporations take the profits". But Mr Bridges highlighted the benefits of oil and gas investment in New Zealand, including 7000 jobs.

"They are the highest paying jobs in the New Zealand economy, on average $105,000 per annum."

Statoil was spending $20 million, while $800 million a year from oil and gas taxes and royalties went into public infrastructure. "On the issue of the royalties, we get 42c in every dollar of profit. It is lower than the Norways of this world, but were there significant finds, we could well review that."

Greens energy spokesman Gareth Hughes said the cost of the four-day summit was the equivalent of a ministerial salary for a year.

"The food and booze alone accounts for $22,000. That's about $500 per person per day, or double what many spend for a family supermarket shopping in a week. Kiwis are struggling, working some of the longest hours, for some of the lowest wages with some of the highest costs of living in the developed world. While one in four of our kids grow up in poverty and 60 per cent of our rivers are unsafe to swim in, Kiwis see their ministers splashing money on one of the richest industries in the world."

- NZ Herald

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