Auckland City Mayor John Banks and two councillors were treated to hospitality worth up to $500 each watching David Beckham's LA Galaxy football team at the weekend as part of a council deal.
They enjoyed finger food, a three-course meal and drinks in the corporate lounge before watching LA Galaxy beat the Oceania All Stars 3-0 from the best seats at Mt Smart Stadium. The corporate packages sold between $350 and $495-a-head.
A council spokeswoman yesterday said it received 15 corporate tickets as a "contra" for contributing $35,000 to help 6500 school children join David Beckham and the LA Galaxy at training on Friday. The council contributed a further $80,000 towards the cost of bringing the team to Auckland.
The payments of $115,000 were approved in April at a "confidential" meeting of the events subcommittee, made up of Citizens & Ratepayers' councillors Toni Millar, Greg Moyle and John Lister.
Toni Millar joined Mr Banks and another C&R councillor, Paul Goldsmith at the corporate event. Mr Banks' chief of staff, Nick Clelland-Stokes, city events group manager Rachael Dacy, sponsorship manager Alex Wilson, plus accompanying guests made up the council team.
Last night, Mr Banks said he dined at home before Saturday's match and only had a piece of cake, glass of water and cup of coffee at Mt Smart Stadium.
Mr Banks supported spending $35,000 on the school children, but said he was unaware of the other $80,000.
The $115,000 cost to Auckland City ratepayers comes when Mr Banks and C&R are slashing hundreds of millions of dollars from the council's new 10-year budget, including cuts to libraries, swimming pools, footpaths and cleaning up beaches such as Mission Bay.
In another twist, Auckland Regional Council chief executive Peter Winder said the opportunity for David Beckham and LA Galaxy was brought to his council by the major events team at Auckland City. Mr Winder said the ARC agreed to underwrite the event and carry 100 per cent of the risk.
Asked if the ARC had been sold a lemon by Auckland City, Mr Winder said: "No comment."
Mt Smart Stadium, which is owned by the ARC, will now have to trade its way out of a loss after only 16,600 watched the match. The council needed to sell 19,000 seats to break even. During the last week of slow ticket sales, it tried to tempt Auckland with a two-for-one ticket offer. Mr Winder refused to even give an estimate of how much the football match had cost ratepayers. It would be a little while before it got all the invoices and could determine the loss, he said.
Mr Winder said the decision to proceed with the match was taken behind closed door more than four months ago by the parks and heritage committee, which oversees Mt Smart stadium. Councillors were warned of the risks and potential loss of the event as part of a business case.
Who went from Auckland City
* Mayor John Banks and three guests.
* C&R councillor Paul Goldsmith and guest.
* C&R councillor Toni Millar and guest.
* Mayoral chief of staff Nick Clelland-Stokes and guest.
* City events group manager Rachael Dacy and guest.
* Sponsorship manager Alex Wilson and guest.