The Manukau City Council has spent more than $186,000 of ratepayers' money in the past year on leadership courses for staff at a luxury resort near Queenstown - although the council will cease to exist within four months.
That is more than double the $81,450 spent in the previous 12 months, which was up from $13,950 the year before that.
Council staff attended six-day courses run by the Institute for Strategic Leadership, advertised at $19,265.50 a head, which included $2503 for accommodation and meals at Millbrook Resort.
The resort is billed as a recreational paradise, with one of the best alpine golf courses in the world.
Manukau has spent $287,495 at the privately run institute in the past five years.
The figures were released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act after the Herald revealed in June that four senior staff went to the course.
The council will be replaced in November by the Super City. Only two of 37 senior appointments to the new Auckland Council and the council-controlled transport organisation have been filled by Manukau staff.
Chief executive Leigh Auton said Manukau was the third largest city in New Zealand and had a long-standing commitment to develop its staff.
He said plans to send staff to the Institute for Strategic Leadership were made long before decisions were made about the new council.
"The changes in local government have been one of the biggest in organisation structure in New Zealand, and we have to manage our staff and keep the organisation performing over this period of change," Mr Auton said.
"It would have been short-sighted to shut up shop and stop investing in people because of the current change process."
He did not reveal how many staff attended the courses, or their names or positions.
The Institute for Strategic Leadership says its six-day course is intended to help senior executives discover their leadership style and lead change.
The $19,265 fee for the six-day course is not much less than the $23,700 fee for a one-year MBA degree at the University of Auckland Business School. This is aimed at mid-managers and taught two nights a week.
The chief executive of Mangere Budgeting and Family Support, Darryl Evans, said the $3210 daily cost of the leadership course for each council staff member was about six weeks' wages for the average Manukau family he works with.
"That's six weeks' income in one day. That's for just one person - which is obscene," said Mr Evans.
"If the council had donated that money to a charity like us, the type of work we could deliver would be staggering. It just seems completely and utterly irresponsible."
In June, Local Government Minister Rodney Hide sent a letter to councils in the Auckland region urging spending restraint before the Super City amalgamation.
Asked whether spending $186,000 in 12 months on leadership courses was a frugal use of ratepayers' money, Mr Hide said the council had to explain that.
* 2009/2010: $186,145
* 2008/2009: $81,450
* 2007/2008: $13,950
* 2006/2007: NIL
* 2005/2006: $5950
* TOTAL: $287,495