Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Super-size the team - city pays $93,000 for its 36 conference seats

Auckland City. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Auckland City. Photo / Brett Phibbs

One mayor, one city - but 36 delegates from the Auckland Council will be at the Local Government NZ conference in Queenstown, costing ratepayers more than $93,000.

Six councillors, 22 local board members, three Maori Statutory Board members and five council staff fly to Queenstown tomorrow for the two-day conference.

They will stay in the "spellbinding luxury" of the Millennium and Copthorne Resort Lakefront hotels.

The 21 local boards were told they could nominate only one member each to go to the conference, but Franklin Local Board has three spots and the Maungakiekie and Otara-Papatoetoe local boards two each.

Three councillors - Penny Webster, Chris Fletcher, George Wood - and Maori Statutory Board member John Tamihere are paying to take partners to the conference.

The cost per delegate is $2600, including registration, flights and accommodation.

Taxis, meals and other expenses are to be added.

Delegates have been given taxi chits, and told to charge meals to a corporate travel company.

Most of the cost for deputy mayor Penny Hulse is being paid by Local Government NZ in her role as chairwoman of its metro sector.

The big bill comes at a sensitive time for the council.

Councillors are under fire for spending $10.6 million to secure the return of the V8 Supercars to Pukekohe, and rates bills bringing increases of up to 10 per cent will hit letterboxes next month.

The conference begins tomorrow with an evening reception at the Skyline Gondola and has a line-up of speakers that includes Rugby World Cup coach Sir Graham Henry and Herald columnist Fran O'Sullivan.

It finishes on Tuesday with dinner at the Queenstown Events Centre, where four tables of 10 have been reserved for the Auckland Council.

Ms Hulse and councillor Richard Northey will be seated at the national council table.

Last night, Mayor Len Brown defended the size of the delegation and the cost of the conference, saying it was important that Auckland contributed to the main talking point of a Government shake-up of local government.

"Out of more than 500 delegates to the conference, 36 people representing one-third of the country's population and the diverse communities and political backgrounds within our region is not unreasonable," Mr Brown said.

Councillor Cameron Brewer said the trip to Queenstown was the "mother of all junkets" and a huge waste of ratepayers' money.

"Rest assured, it's not about the fascinating workshops or the opportunity to tease out the Local Government Reform Bill," he said.

The Hamilton City Council is sending five delegates to the conference.

- NZ Herald

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