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Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Ministerial credit cards: Who are the big spenders?

Regatta-related expenses, costly car hire and a robbery revealed on credit-card records

Steven Joyce spent nearly $30,000 on a trip to the America's Cup regatta in San Francisco. Photo / NZ Herald
Steven Joyce spent nearly $30,000 on a trip to the America's Cup regatta in San Francisco. Photo / NZ Herald

Tens of thousands of dollars to send ministers to the America's Cup, pricey rental and chauffeur-driven cars during overseas trips - and the robbery of one of Steven Joyce's staff in China - were revealed in ministerial credit-card records released yesterday.

Economic Development Minister Mr Joyce received Cabinet approval for $35,510 in expenditure to send him and a staff member to San Francisco to attend the regatta for 11 days in September, the records show.

But the trip came in under budget at $29,628 with flights costing $22,000 and credit-card spending, including $7000 on accommodation.

Environment Minister Amy Adams had $45,000 approved to travel with a staff member to the US for meetings in Washington and to attend the Cup for four days. A spokesman confirmed the trip cost $27,226 and Ms Adams' total travel bill for the year was $39,000.

While in San Francisco she spent $6438 on her ministerial credit card on accommodation and transport, including $1242 on a car and driver for one day. The spokesman said Ms Adams attended eight meetings around San Francisco that day including one in San Jose, a return trip of about 160km. As Ms Adams was preparing for the meetings, hiring the car and driver made more sense than a self-drive hire car or taxis.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples was also in San Francisco for part of the regatta, but no credit-card expenses from him were published yesterday and his office was unable to provide information about the trip's costs.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully stopped over in San Francisco during the racing en route to meetings elsewhere, but his records associated with that trip would be published in the next release, a spokeswoman said.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard also attended the regatta but paid his own airfares, albeit subsidised by the taxpayer, and arranged his own accommodation.

Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee was in San Francisco shortly after the America's Cup ended for meetings with insurance industry experts. He also hired a car and driver for a day, for $1543.

A spokesman said the car was "not a particularly luxurious vehicle" which picked up Mr Brownlee, three others and their luggage from San Francisco Airport before taking them to "valuable" meetings in Oakland and Silicon Valley, then taking them back to the airport that evening.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett hired a pricey car while in Croatia in July. The car from Thrifty cost $1989 for four days.

"We arrived as Croatia joined the European Union," Ms Bennett said. "Zagreb was packed with ... visitors for the celebrations. Rental cars were scarce and at a premium but Thrifty was the best option."

Mr Joyce's credit-card records show $3116 was spent at Shi Bo De Coffee in Shanghai. A spokesman said one of Mr Joyce's staff had their office ministerial credit card "forcibly taken off them". The card was then used to withdraw money. "The staff member went to police straight away and the money was recovered."

- NZ Herald

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