Hutt City Council spent thousands of dollars on what looks like an elaborate drinks fridge in the mayor's office, documents reveal.
This is despite there already being a fridge in the office kitchen but, according to acting council chief executive Matt Reid, it is "very small".
The Delta Backbar Bottle Cooler has a 320L capacity, two sliding doors and a black powder-coat finish.
The purchase has come under fire from elected officials, with one labelling the expense "wasteful" at a time of tight budgets.
The council paid $1,453.95 for the fridge excluding GST.
A contractor estimate released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act set the estimate for works to the Mayor's kitchen area at $2,441.42 excluding GST. This included the fridge installation as well as labour costs, electrical modifications and painting and touch-ups.
In a statement, the council said this cost also covered a redesign of the existing joinery to provide more storage space and make more efficient use of the existing cupboards.
The fridge was primarily installed to increase limited food storage capacity in the mayoral office kitchen for events, Reid said.
Food was often delivered several hours before an event and good food hygiene was vital, he said.
"The kitchen itself is a small and narrow space and the fridge was considered as the best way to increase capacity for storing food and beverages as it can fit under the bench.
"Food and beverages are regularly served at formal mayoral events and meetings. It was an operational decision to install the fridge to make the best use of space in a very small kitchen area," Reid said.
The building the mayor's office is housed in underwent a refurbishment between 2014 and 2016 when it was found it did not meet the current earthquake code.
The interior of the original building was demolished but the original facades to the north and south were retained, along with the roof and a section of internal structure.
The additional fridge was installed in 2018 by council officers.
When the Herald contacted Hutt City councillors for comment on the fridge, many were unaware it even existed.
Councillor Simon Edwards said after clarifying with the mayor, he accepted food safety was important.
"We don't want visitors to the mayor's office getting food poisoning," he said.
"It's unfortunate because budgets are so tight but if it's for food safety reasons I guess I can accept that."
Councillor Josh Briggs also didn't know anything about it but said it was an inappropriate use of ratepayer money.
"It seems like a ridiculous amount of money to be spending on a drink cooler."
Some councillors wanted to stay out of it or didn't want to comment.
Councillor Tui Lewis was aware of the fridge and called it a "done deal" that nobody knew anything about it.
The fridge usually had alcohol in it, she said. A photo supplied to the Herald shows just that.
"It's a nice to have but it's definitely not necessary," Lewis said.
In 2017 Hutt City Council came under fire when questions were raised about buffet meals being served at meetings from the ratepayers' purse.
Councillor Campbell Barry suggested he and his colleagues should bring their own food or be personally invoiced for catering.
But a proposal to scrap free meals at council meetings was voted down.
On the matter of the fridge, Barry said being an elected member was a privilege and people shouldn't forget that.
"For me this is an example of wasteful and extra spending and I think most ratepayers would be disappointed to see public money spent in this way.
"I don't think anyone's seen food in it, it's just packed with alcohol."
In questions to Hutt City Council the Herald asked whether Mayor Ray Wallace thought the money spent on the fridge was a good use of ratepayer money, but only the acting chief executive responded with the statement reported earlier in this article.