Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

City staff fly in style to Monaco

Critics unhappy that council pair's boat show trip and Dubai meeting cost $57,000

The Monaco Yacht Show. Photo / AP
The Monaco Yacht Show. Photo / AP

Two Auckland Council officials flew business class to a boat show in Monaco on a trip that cost ratepayers $57,000.

The fresh spending details come after revelations this week that the council's events organisation, known as Ateed, also spent $220,000 to send 18 people - including TV3 news anchor Hilary Barry - to the America's Cup in San Francisco.

That bill, and a further $57,369 for the two Ateed staff to attend a meeting in Dubai and the 2013 Monaco Yacht Show, is under attack from former Auckland City mayor Dick Hubbard and sitting councillor Cameron Brewer.

Ateed should not be doing what NZ Trade & Enterprise already did well, and their targets were "weak" for the money spent, Hubbard said. "It's a classic case of a pot of money looking for something to do."

Brewer said sending 18 people to the Cup was too many, but Ateed had "secured some worthwhile international connections".

No reports were available on the boat show, which ran from September 24-27.

"[We've] only some promise that they're in vague discussions with a few superyachts' owners hoping to convince them to visit Auckland," Brewer said.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley said the spending was necessary if the council-controlled organisation was to achieve what it was set up for.

"We're not going to hit those targets by sitting in Auckland."

Reports on the boat show will be presented to Auckland Council in March, but Ateed said superyacht brokers indicated three to five vessels would visit the city this summer. Each visit was worth at least $1.7 million.

Council watchdog David Thornton, of No More Rates, criticised the boat-show bill, describing the $23,390 spent on business and premium economy class airfares for the pair as unnecessary.

Business class seats are usually for executives who have to hit the ground running, but the Dubai meeting occurred at least six hours after their dawn arrival and the Monaco event involved manning a booth and hosting functions.

"I really struggle with the way Ateed goes about its business because most of their funding comes from rates," Thornton said.

O'Riley said the upgrades were fair. Business class seats were booked on some flights because premium economy was not available.

Ateed's travel policy was "conservative" compared to the Government, where flights over eight hours were upgraded, he said.

Of the 18 people who travelled to the America's Cup, five flew premium economy when economy seats sold out.

The 18 were in San Francisco at different periods between July 4 and October 1, with two usually in the city at the same time.

That number swelled to six when the Auckland Event, for which Barry was MC, took place.

- Herald on Sunday

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