Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

MPs' expenses revealed: Groser dines on protected fish

Trade Minister's controversial menu choices among most eyebrow-raising items in MPs' spending report

Antarctic toothfish was on Tim Groser's table.
Antarctic toothfish was on Tim Groser's table.

Fine wines, controversial French delicacies and a protected species of fish have all been slapped on the taxpayers' tab by government ministers.

Thousands of dollars in domestic travel and a New York internet connection are also revealed in the latest round of MPs' spending records.

Disgraced National List MP Claudette Hauiti was among the biggest spenders in the April to June period, chalking up $30,824 in domestic travel alone, while Foreign Minister Murray McCully spent $320 on four bottles of vino at a US oyster bar.

Trade Minister Tim Groser is being singled out for scrutiny after he and two officials ordered Antarctic toothfish - a species which New Zealand is going to huge lengths to protect - at a Singapore restaurant in January, the ministerial credit card receipts released by the Department of Internal Affairs show.

The receipt says Mr Groser spent $300 on the meal at Table for 7, which included Chilean sea bass - also known as Patagonian or Antarctic toothfish - and a $90 bottle of Central Otago pinot noir.

Mr Groser was in Singapore for Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, and the meal was declared as a "delegation dinner hosted by the minister".

New Zealand has been working for years with the United States to establish a marine reserve in Antarctica to protect species including the toothfish.

The dish has been banned by some US chefs and supermarkets. It is rarely sold in New Zealand because it is a delicacy that fetches around $70 a kilogram in the US and Asia.

Another of the menu choices, foie gras, is a controversial dish. Activists have long protested against "fatty liver" because making it involves force-feeding a live duck or goose.

Mr Groser's office did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Credit card returns showed that Mr McCully bought internet access in New York on the day his office was sent an email about Malaysian diplomat Muhammad Rizalman bin Ismail invoking diplomatic immunity.

The minister has said the email was not opened because communications were limited as he travelled to New York.

Labour MP David Shearer said the new evidence meant Mr McCully's excuse was "in tatters".

"He has blamed [Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade] officials and no internet connection for not knowing about a significant development."

MPs were told on Wednesday the email was not opened until June - at least nine days later. Mr McCully was not informed that Rizalman had claimed immunity and fled until late June. Mr McCully's office said he could not respond while an inquiry was ongoing.

Credit cards

Trade Minister Tim Groser: Foie gras, bean curd omelette, porcini souffle, Chilean sea bass, challand duck, pinot noir at Singapore restaurant Table at 7. Cost: $300

Foreign Minister Murray McCully: Four bottles of white wine at Docks Oyster Bar, New York. Cost: $320

Travel

Biggest-spending minister: Tim Groser, $201,841.
Biggest-spending MP: Hone Harawira, $52,845.

Department of Internal Affairs, April 1 2013 to June 30 2014

- NZ Herald

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