Hastings District Council employs a swimming coach who lives in Melbourne, a current affairs show revealed last night.

TV One's Seven Sharp programme, as part of a series revealing local councils' overseas spending, last night reported the council is paying half of Hawke's Bay swim coach William Benson's salary while he trains for next year's Olympics in the Australian city.

Mr Benson is head coach of the Sun Devils Swim Club based at Flaxmere Waterworld. He was part of the New Zealand 4x100m freestyle relay team that finished 11th at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the Olympian was continuing to run Flaxmere Waterworld's administration and coaching programmes in Melbourne, as part of a flexible working arrangement. "He's based in between here and Australia while he's training for the pre-qualification parts of the Olympics, and he can't do it all here."


The arrangement had started in November last year and would continue until April.

"It's no extra cost to the ratepayers, he's paying his own accommodation and his own flights backwards and forwards."

Mr Yule added: "We're pretty proud of [Mr Benson] and we don't have many athletes in Hawke's Bay who go to the Olympics."

Seven Sharp co-host Toni Street last night defended the council.

"I think good on a local council for backing their guy."

"Yeah, with other people's money - excellent, good on them," said co-host Mike Hosking.

Mr Benson was also featured in this year's Flaxmere Heroes calendar for his services to his swim club.