Auckland councillors must exercise moderation with alcohol and if they do imbibe go for cheap brands and stick to a couple of glasses.

That's the advice of Mayor Phil Goff and officers when it comes to claiming expenses. As a general rule, the council does not pay for alcohol but there are occasions, such an entertaining overseas guests, when alcohol can be served.

The ratepayers should not pay for alcohol full stop.

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"It's the front page of the newspaper test. Would it look like a reasonable decision or would it look like extravagance," said Goff.

"Is a liqueur after dinner an extravagance?" asked councillor Cathy Casey during a discussion on the elected members' expense policy where the alcohol issue was raised.

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"On Facebook if you get seen with a glass of wine and you will get 100 questions about who paid for it," she said.

Goff's view was that spending $100 on a bottle of wine was unreasonable when you could buy a good bottle of wine for $20 "which is what I would ever pay".

Councillor Penny Hulse, who does not drink alcohol - "I can be accused of being a wowser" - said councillors get very well paid and need to draw some lines in the sand.

"We need to get a grip. The ratepayers should not pay for alcohol full stop," she said.