NZ First targets Steven Joyce over travel costs

By Kate Shuttleworth

Minister Steven Joyce. File photo / Mark MItchell
Minister Steven Joyce. File photo / Mark MItchell

New Zealand First has criticised the cost of Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce's recent four-day trip to Europe but Mr Joyce has hit back.

Mr Joyce visited Poland, Germany, Brussels and the United Kingdom in June to strengthen New Zealand's science, innovation and international education links with the European Union.

He opened the biennial New Zealand-European Commission joint science and technology co-operation meeting in Brussels.

Answers to written questions show the budget for the trip was $56,700, a total NZ First leader Winston Peters said was the equivalent of two minimum wage jobs.

Mr Joyce confirmed today the budget for his trip was $56,700 but said actual costs were still being processed.

He said 75 per cent of the budget was spent on airfares and has called Mr Peters a "hypocrite" for his comments.

"This was the guy who as foreign minister defined spending money. For example, in 2006 he managed to spend more than $250,000 in three months - which equates to around $300,000 today - and he said at the time that was to be expected.

"The good news is that I didn't burn any bedspreads."

Mr Peters said a minimum wage earner working 35 hours a week could be paid just under $25,000 a year.

"While Steven Joyce and his staff are jet-setting around the world, more and more New Zealanders are lining up to collect the dole".

He said Mr Joyce was attempting to dismiss questions about the cost of the trip.

"Steven Joyce is the Minister of Employment. We'd like to see him go down to the local dole queue and explain this prodigality away, and see how those job-seekers react to him wastefully spending over $50,000 of taxpayers' money.

"A brief search on the Air New Zealand website shows a return business class airfare from New Zealand to a European capital for $11,000 per person, so how does the minister account for the rest of the costs?"

But Mr Joyce gained some support from former foreign affairs minister Phil Goff, who said the costs weren't unreasonable.

"I've never criticised a minister of foreign affairs or a minister of trade for travel costs, because if you're doing your job you're spending long hours flying, long hours at meetings and there's no time for junkets in between.

During Mr Peters' time as foreign minister, he spent more than $250,000 between June and September, 2006.

In that year his office was charged $230 for a bed cover that was burnt with a cigarette, although the money was later reimbursed.

Where did Mr Joyce stay:

* Poland: Hotel Stary, Krakow - 1 night

* Germany: Hotel Berline-Mitte, Berlin - 1 night

* Brussels: Sofitel Brussels - 1 night

* London: Royal Horseguards Hotel - 1 night


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