Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon is driving the most expensive council-purchased vehicle of any New Zealand local government elected representative.
The New Zealand Taxpayers' Union has released details of elected representatives' vehicles, with Gordon's $97,000 BMW X4 far and away the most expensive. Next highest on the list is Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt's Chrysler 300C at $72,323.
The Taxpayers' Union report says Gordon's vehicle was purchased by the council in November 2016 and he has approval for official and personal use.
The cost of the vehicle is deducted from Gordon's salary, which in September this year rose 8.5 per cent to $135,054.
Taxpayers' Union researcher Shani Bennik, who compiled the figures, said Shadbolt's vehicle was identified the most expensive mayoral vehicle in the country but "Horizons Regional Council Chairman Bruce Gordon manages to make Mayor Shadbolt look frugal".
"It is a disgraceful sense of entitlement that he sees fit to have the most expensive vehicle of any elected local official in New Zealand," Bennik said.
"Maybe, when the council purchased the $97,000 BMW X4, they thought this kind of luxury was the norm. It's not – the cost of Mr Gordon's vehicle sticks out like a sore thumb, making other council chairs and even the most extravagant mayors look frugal.
It is a disgraceful sense of entitlement that he sees fit to have the most expensive vehicle of any elected local official in New Zealand
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"Mr Gordon risks giving ratepayers in Manawatu-Wanganui the impression that their money is taken for private luxuries instead of essential services."
Gordon said he accepted the perception that his vehicle was "not a good look" but he believed the net cost to the ratepayer was no higher than for any other vehicle.
The high value reflects the high trade-in price. I appreciate that it's ratepayers' money. At the end of each three years, I firmly believe that the ratepayer is better off
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"I pay $27,000 a year over three years towards the cost of the vehicle," Gordon said.
"The high value reflects the high trade-in price. I appreciate that it's ratepayers' money. At the end of each three years, I firmly believe that the ratepayer is better off."
Gordon said the actual cost to the council was not $97,000 as it claimed GST on the vehicle.
While he had approval for personal use of the vehicle, Gordon said he had his own commercial ute at home and used that most of the time.
"I do 12,000km a year in that. I'd be surprised if I did more than 3000km a year personally [in the BMW]."
The purchase of the BMW was signed off by Horizons' chief executive, deputy chair and audit and risk committee chair. However, councillors had some concerns about the purchase of the BMW and in future the council would authorise purchase of vehicles.
"I'm very happy about that," Gordon said.
In comparison, Whanganui Mayor Hamish McDouall drives a $43,000 Honda CR-V, Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron has a $28,855 Ford Focus for official duties only and South Taranaki Mayor Ross Dunlop drives a $42,792 Outlander PHEV 4WD. Rangitikei Mayor Andy Watson does not have a council-purchased vehicle and has no fuel allowance.