Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Auckland Council body spends $29k on staff trip to Rio Olympics

Fireworks explode over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
Fireworks explode over Maracana Stadium during the opening ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Aug. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

An Auckland Council body is under fire for sending two staff to the Rio Olympics at a cost of $29,000.

The Ratepayers' Alliance said Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) was sending the staff on the "ultimate junket" to the Rio Olympics while Aucklanders struggle to pay their rates.

Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley confirmed that external relations general manager Steve Armitage and stakeholder relations manager Susan Sawbridge are at the games.

He said final costs for the trip are yet to be confirmed, but travel and accommodation costs for the two staff are $29,000.

It's a junket on our dime, plain and simple
Jo Holmes

O'Riley rejected a claim by the Ratepayers' Alliance the pair had no responsibility for major events or working in the department responsible for attracting commercial investment to Auckland.

"The Ratepayers Alliance have completely missed that Steve Armitage has much wider responsibilities within Ateed, including general management responsibility for our tourism and international education activities, World Masters Games, and the NZOC partnership.

"Susan has managed our local and international sporting federation relationships for several years. The NZ Inc programme of activity they are supporting in Rio reflects all of those priorities and several others, and is tied to measurable outcomes within our business plan," O'Riley said.

He said Ateed was part of the NZ Inc. Programme of activities that are happening this week in Brazil, with staff taking part in meetings that span a range of opportunities for Auckland.

"This includes promoting World Masters Games 2017 (being held in Auckland), meeting with international sporting federations to prospect for future major events opportunities for Auckland, progressing a bid for the IOC Congress 2021, tourism, international education and trade opportunities.

"Our representatives have also met with investors who have an existing relationship or wish to build a relationship with Auckland as a place to invest."

Alliance spokeswoman Jo Holmes said: "While you could understand a member of the Auckland World Masters Games organising team attending Rio, the two staff Ateed have sent have nothing to do with organising events. It's a junket on our dime, plain and simple.

"If Ateed was at the Olympics to attract events or competitions to Auckland, they would have sent someone from their events department. Likewise, if they were there to promote Auckland investment, they would have sent someone who works in that area."

Six days ago, the Herald revealed that Alf Filipaina, the councillor leading the council's planning blueprint, was in Rio while his colleagues ploughed through the details and final decisions in Auckland.

He took leave from his $105,800-a-year role to attend the Olympics, even though he was chairman of the Unitary Plan committee, which oversaw the council's position on the blueprint, or Unitary Plan.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf05 at 03 Dec 2016 20:18:44 Processing Time: 445ms