Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Brown's gym in spotlight

Questions raised over ratepayers footing cost of fitness gear set up in Town Hall for mayor.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / APN
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / APN

Auckland ratepayers have paid $5200 to provide a personal gym for Mayor Len Brown in the Auckland Town Hall.

A new treadmill and multi-gym were installed in a small room on the ground floor of the Town Hall weeks after he was elected mayor in 2010.

Documents released to the Herald under the Official Information Act show the mayoral office requested the equipment for Mr Brown to manage his health and because he could not easily get to a gym.

Mr Brown suffered a massive heart attack in 2008, but has consistently expressed confidence in his health since before standing for mayor of the Super City.

In a November 24, 2010, email, the mayor's chief of staff Phil Wilson asked sport and recreation manager Ian Maxwell if there was any possibility of getting used equipment from a council facility or a supplier who could loan or sponsor it.

"The sensitivity, though, is that we don't want to be seen to be spending any public money on him," Mr Wilson said.

When Mr Maxwell replied he would get some equipment, Mr Wilson came back saying "the almighty will be very pleased".

Documents show the council's Manukau Leisure Services provided Mr Brown with a new LifeFitness treadmill costing $3000.50 and a Parabody gym system costing $2198.85 out of its fitness renewal budget on a "loan basis" to be returned when no longer required.

Arrangements were made for the equipment to be delivered to the Town Hall, where Mr Brown is based, on December 10. Five days later Mr Wilson thanked Mr Maxwell, saying he was not expecting new equipment but it looked great and "Len is very happy". Manukau Leisure Services organised for a fitness trainer to come to the Town Hall to show Mr Brown how to use the equipment on January 17, 2011, and offered a four- to eight-week appointment schedule.

Mr Brown refused to answer questions yesterday about the gym equipment.

His head of communications, Dan Lambert, said the mayor used the equipment two or three times a week and it enabled him to spend more time on community engagements and other work than if he was going back and forth to the gym. When the Herald first inquired last December about the gym equipment Mr Lambert said it was not a gift that required declaring. "They remain council property for use by whoever is the sitting mayor and have not been gifted to the current mayor," Mr Lambert said.

Questions have been raised about the mayor's sense of entitlement, going back to his days as Mayor of Manukau when he confessed to personal spending on his council credit card. Last December, a report found he failed to declare over $39,000 in free hotel rooms and upgrades.

- NZ Herald

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