Travel costs climb for Wairarapa List MPs

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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TRavel expenses are mounting for the two Wairarapa list MPs Marama Fox and Ron Mark. PHOTO/FILE
TRavel expenses are mounting for the two Wairarapa list MPs Marama Fox and Ron Mark. PHOTO/FILE

Wairarapa-based List MPs say Parliament's latest expense disclosures for accommodation and travel show they are flat out meeting the needs of people from across the country.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox, who spent her first night at home in over a week last night, said she travels often to meet the needs of people in constituencies from around New Zealand.

From January to the end of March Ms Fox spent $22,964 on travel ($15,240 travel and $7725 accommodation).

"Even though I'm a List MP and don't have a constituency as such, when members of the public across the whole country get frustrated because their local MPs are not responding to them, they come to me," she said, "I try to push them back to their local MPs but that doesn't always bear fruit so then I end up picking up the ball, which pushes us to the absolute limit."

Ms Fox said the most flights she has done in one day is five -- "and while that sounds excessive, it's what we have to do to be able to meet the needs of our community, and Maori love to meet face-to-face".

NZ First deputy leader Ron Mark spent $15,789 for the same period ($8399 travel and $7390 accommodation), but said he still hasn't put all of his claims in.

"I do a hell of a lot of driving as deputy leader, but I try to focus my efforts on Wairarapa so I haven't done as much travelling, but I expect that is about to change.

"Right now I don't have one free day until about the end of June. I've got people begging me to go up to Auckland to talk about some issues, people asking me to go to Northland to help out with some stuff there, Christchurch, Invercargill, West Coast.

"If you're a List MP you don't have the luxury of staying home really and if you're a deputy leader then you certainly are expected to travel. I'm flat out right now but I wouldn't have it any other way."

Wairarapa MP Alastair Scott, who has been known to keep his travel and accommodation costs quite low, disclosed $782 for travel and $122 for out of Wellington accommodation from January to the end of March.

"I don't really have any accommodation expenses so that's probably one of the main things," he said.

"There's no point me claiming expenses when I'm living in my own house in Masterton and my own house in Wellington."

Mr Scott said he had yet to claim some expenses but puts his low costs down to the fact that he drives places instead of flying. "I can drive to Waipukurau at around the same time and for less cost than flying, and I can do a few things along the way if I drive.

"I imagine Marama and Ron have responsibilities throughout the country as deputy leaders so they would have a higher expense than me."

On average, from January to the end of March, Labour MPs spent $15,444 each, New Zealand First MPs spent $14,652, Green MPs spent $14,509, Maori Party MPs spent $12,234 and National MPs, excluding ministerial expenses, spent $8505.

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