Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Councillors keep travel perk

Labour councillor Ross Clow.
Labour councillor Ross Clow.

A group of Auckland councillors have managed to retain a business-class-travel perk, but a bid to give them free parking has been voted down.

The move comes as reduced library hours, street cleaning and an end to inorganic rubbish collections are on the table for sweeping budget cuts.

George Wood, Christine Fletcher, Denise Krum and Calum Penrose were among those who voted yesterday to defeat an amendment by councillor John Watson to restrict business-class air travel to health grounds only.

Councillors get to keep the perk of sitting in business class when taking flights of more than six hours and conducting council business within 24 hours of landing at an overseas destination.

It took the casting vote of finance committee chairman and Labour councillor Ross Clow to keep the status quo in the elected members' expenses policy, despite many of his left-wing colleagues voting to tighten the rules.

Right wingers Cameron Brewer and Dick Quax supported the left to tighten the rules.

Mr Clow justified his decision on the basis that elected representatives needed to turn up fresh and fully prepared to represent Auckland after long-haul travel beyond most of Australia.

City Vision councillor Cathy Casey said the cost of business-class air travel should not be met by ratepayers.

"It would be an entirely bad look for any Auckland councillor to be sitting at the front of a plane comfortably sipping champagne when the great unwashed walk through the business class clutching their economy-class boarding passes," she said.

House of Travel is advertising economy-class return flights to Singapore from $1281 and business-class tickets from $3476.

Return economy fares to London start at $2110 and business-class seats are $6537.

Council staff racked up $10.5 million in domestic and international travel in the first two years of the Super City.

Some of the trips included visits to far-flung countries such as Brazil, Nepal and Finland.

Mayor Len Brown, who was not at yesterday's meeting, wouldn't say which way he would have voted.

In June, Mr Brown flew business class to a World Cities Summit in Singapore and economy class on the return journey.

Yesterday, the council could not provide any figures or recent examples of elected representatives flying business class.

Mr Quax also used the item on the expenses policy to explore the possibility of giving councillors free parking permits, but the idea was rejected in an 11-3 vote.

How they voted

Business Class Air Travel

On trips longer than six hours (status quo)
Ross Clow (plus casting vote)
Bill Cashmore
Chris Fletcher
Denise Krum
Calum Penrose
Sir John Walker
George Wood

Restricted to health grounds
Cameron Brewer
Cathy Casey
Chris Darby
Mike Lee
Dick Quax
Wayne Walker
John Watson

- NZ Herald

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