Rugby World Cup Minister Murray McCully has snatched the dubious record for the most expensive wine bought at the taxpayers' expense with not one but four bottles of $185pinot noir while hosting a dinner for the International Rugby Board this year.

Ministerial credit card statements released yesterday show Mr McCully's $2855 bill for the March 30 dinner for 14 at the Viaduct's upmarket Kermadec restaurant included four bottles of Ata Rangi Pinot Noir '06 for $740, or $185 each.

That easily tops the $155 bottle of champagne former Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard splashed out on during a dinner with Australian ministers at the Cin Cin OnQuay harbourside restaurant two years ago.

Mr McCully's dinner for 14 included a further four bottles of wine priced between $72 and $80 each. Local delicacies included three one-dozen servings of Bluff oysters at $52 each and a further four half-dozen servings at $27 each.

In his role as Foreign Minister, Mr McCully is expected to extend hospitality befitting the status of foreign dignitaries both at home and when abroad and continued to fulfil this role between March and June this year with a number of lavish dinners.

Oysters - at $54 a half-dozen - were again on the menu when he hosted Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Sevele and five other guests at Soul Bar in Auckland in May, where the bill, including $150 for two bottles of Cloudy Bay chardonnay and a $68 bottle of Big Sky Pinot Noir, came to $747.50.

Overall the credit card statements suggest public scrutiny means ministers and their staff are now more careful with their spending compared with what was revealed in the previous seven years of records released last month.

Trade Minister Tim Groser's frequent recourse to hotel minibars when overseas was curbed in recent months, limited to the occasional bottle of water.

There were also fewer instances of ministers and their staff putting personal items on ministerial cards and then reimbursing Ministerial Services later, a practice which is discouraged except in exceptional circumstances.

Attorney-General and Arts and Culture Minister Chris Finlayson repaid $274 he spent on tickets for a concert at Washington DC's Kennedy Centre in April, while a $38.69 purchase of Mac cosmetics "made in error" by one of Senior Citizens Minister John Carter's staff during a trip to Australia in April was also repaid.

Local Government Minister Rodney Hide, who besmirched his reputation as Parliament's "perkbuster" with his generous use of MPs' travel perks last year, celebrated the completion of his flagship Super City legislation in early June with a relatively modest function.

The $343.84 he spent at New World went on cheese, chips, nuts, nine bottles of wine, ranging from $11 to $15.39 a bottle, a dozen Steinlager and a dozen Tui.

MURRAY McCULLY'S SLAP-UP MEAL
* Table for 14 at Kermadec restaurant in Auckland: $2855
* Wine (including four bottles of Ata Rangi Pinot Noir '06 at $185 each): $1036
* Bread and water: $179.50
* Entrees (including $264 worth of oysters): $399
* Mains: $588
* Desserts (including a $17.50 "exploding milkshake"): $191