Rodney and Louise's other holiday perk

By Claire Trevett

Rodney Hide and Louise Crome went to a wedding in Britain and on a trip to Hawaii. Photos / Supplied
Rodney Hide and Louise Crome went to a wedding in Britain and on a trip to Hawaii. Photos / Supplied

"Perk-buster" Rodney Hide whisked his girlfriend away on another tax-payer funded trip - a mid-winter tropical break in Hawaii.

The Weekend Herald can reveal that the Act leader - under intense scrutiny after taking Louise Crome on a ministerial trip to Europe and America in September - also took her on a $10,000 holiday to Hawaii in July.

This week, Mr Hide quietly repaid the money without publicly revealing anything about the holiday.

Mr Hide, the Minister of Local Government, did not disclose the Hawaii holiday when he was first questioned about his $25,000 bill for his personal and partner's international travel over the three months from July, saying it was a mixture of Ms Crome's flights on the Europe trip and her NZ travel.

Asked yesterday if further international travel was included in that total, his spokeswoman said Mr Hide and Ms Crome had gone to Hawaii using the "holidays perk" - a 90 per cent subsidy MPs and their partners get on private international travel.

"He booked the flights through parliamentary travel but after reflecting on that decision over the last week or so, he decided to repay the full cost of the Hawaiian airfares."

He had repaid the $10,022.40 cost of the flights this week.

Ms Crome's flights to Europe and America cost about $12,000, on top of the $26,872 for Mr Hide's ministerial travel.

Asked why Mr Hide had not revealed the Hawaii holiday or corrected the amount being reported on the Europe trip, his spokeswoman said there was no intention to mislead or deceive, but the minister had not had the exact figures with him.

He had known the figures would come out in the release of MPs' expenses, and he had been one of the main advocates for the expenses being released.

"So there was never any intention to deceive or hide anything because it would all be out in the public domain anyway."

Mr Hide came in for widespread criticism for using the perk to take Ms Crome with him, sidestepping an edict by Prime Minister John Key that ministers wanting to take partners on international travel should pay for it themselves.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he did not want to have a blanket rule on MPs not taking partners, and was comfortable with them using their travel discounts.

But incidents over the past week showed caution was needed.

"What MPs do need to do is recognise pretty clearly we live in a modern, new world where there is increased media scrutiny, where there is an expectation from the public about the way their taxpayers' dollars will be spent. I think they'd better start learning fast that they need to meet those expectations."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said he did not want to comment on the Hawaii holiday.

Mr Hide built up a reputation as a perkbuster and has opposed the holidays perk. He defended his use of it to take Ms Crome with him by saying he did not like the perk, but was not going to be a martyr by not using it if others were.

He said he would use it again, but later said he would think twice before doing so.

The news he had used the perk for a private holiday could further damage his credibility, and the decision to repay the cost of it shows Mr Hide is feeling the pressure of the public response.

The criticism of Mr Hide was heightened by claims the pair timed their European trip to fit in with the wedding of Ms Crome's brother.

Yesterday, Mr Key said the timing was possibly "fortuitous" rather than deliberately arranged.

Act MP Sir Roger Douglas also came in for criticism after spending about $44,000 of taxpayers' money on a trip to Britain with his wife this year.

- NZ Herald

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