Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has revealed details about a crackdown on travel, hospitality and gifts after the council's promotion agency reported a 43 per cent jump in travel costs to more than $900,000 over two years.
Goff is considering imposing the same rules on council officers that apply to central government, which last week showed Trade Minister Todd McClay and NZ First leader Winston Peters tried to put aside their trade differences over foie gras and snails at a bistro in Paris.
The details of Goff's policy on "sensitive spending", flagged in December and still being worked on, could include elected representatives and officers having to release details of credit-card spending, including hotel, meal and entertainment costs, he said.
"I want to have safeguards in there so if you go out to dinner, it's not over a $500 bottle of champagne covered by the ratepayer," said Goff.
The group-wide policy would set a high standard and apply to council officers and elected representatives because the money has the same source, he said.
Goff was concerned at a 43 per cent rise in staff travel costs over two years at Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), saying he had received an assurance from the agency that there were robust business cases and spending was appropriate in each case.
Figures show Ateed staff travel rose over two years - from $649,108 to $926,606 in flights, accommodation and expenses - prompting Goff to remind Ateed bosses to show constraint and a responsible approach to spending on travel.
The $926,606 figure includes $134,000 in costs for World Masters Games Ltd, a subsidiary of Ateed set up to manage this year's World Masters Games in Auckland. An Ateed spokesman said the games objective is to deliver $30.8 million of economic benefit for Auckland.
The figures for previous years also included costs from World Masters Games Ltd.
The figures, released on the Ateed website, show Ateed chief executive Brett O'Riley racked up $100,000 on international travel, hotels and expenses in the 2015 and 2016 calendar years, including back-to-back trips to China in April and July last year.
O'Riley made six overseas trips in 2015 and seven last year. He went to Australia (four times), China (five times), United States (twice), Morocco, UK, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In a statement released last night, Ateed chairman David McConnell said staff undertake travel as part of work delivering five key priority area on behalf of council - building a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship; attracting business and investment; growing and attracting skilled talent; growing the visitor economy; and building Auckland's brand and identity.
"To achieve Ateed's publicly stated targets, agreed by Council through the organisation's Statement of Intent, staff are often required to travel offshore to attract visitors, direct investment and smart jobs to Auckland. This travel is planned for through Ateed's annual budgeting process. Equivalent agencies in other cities around the world undertake this sort of activity routinely."
McConnell said it would be difficult for Ateed to achieve the desired economic transformation for Auckland without specialist staff members travelling internationally.
All international travel requires a robust business case signed off in advance, in accordance with council policy, he said.
"Ateed is in no doubt about the expectations of ratepayers, and Auckland Council as our shareholder, about the need to deliver value for money in all activities that the organisation undertakes. The organisation is also aware of the need for transparency, and as a result has been publishing domestic and international travel costs for all staff and directors since 2015," he said.
O'Riley resigned from the top role on February 1, which pays between $380,000 and $390,000, but is staying on until September 1.
At the time, O'Riley said it had always been his intention to stand down after five years in the job and his decision was not influenced by Goff becoming the new mayor.