The latest ministerial credit card releases revealed spending ranging from Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee's $2100 a night 5-star hotel in Singapore to $15 for Trade Minister Tim Groser to have his shirt sleeves shortened.
The quarterly releases show Mr Brownlee's hotel room at the Shangri-La Hotel for major defence talks in Singapore in May cost $2100 a night and the trip cost the taxpayer a total of $10,000 in accommodation for three nights and one day. Mr Brownlee's room cost a total of $7800 and his staffer's cost a further $2600.
It was to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, a major summit of Asia Pacific defence ministers, diplomats and military chiefs. That has been held at the Shangri-La hotel since it began in 2002.
A spokesman said it was too important a summit for New Zealand to miss and because it was held at the hotel there was little choice about staying there or which room a minister was given.
Rooms at the hotel at the start of November range from $436 to $1530 a night for a garden wing premier balcony suite but hotels often push up their prices for major events such as international conferences. Former Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman's attendance at the same hotel last year cost a total of $7550 and in 2013 cost $8148.
Trade Minister Tim Groser's receipts also showed some of the background work that went into oiling the wheels of trade during TPP talks in Maui earlier this year. It included wining and dining dairy industry representatives at Son'z at Swan Court ($1171.76) and a dinner with the New Zealand negotiating team at Pacific O Lahaina ($1057.22).
At the other end of the scale, wardrobes were also an issue for some ministers. While Mr Groser may have delivered billions of dollars in trade to New Zealand through the TPP, he put the $15 cost of shortening the sleeves on an official shirt onto his credit card. Mr Brownlee spent $32.20 on two new high-vis vests for visiting construction zones around Christchurch and Pacific Peoples Minister Sam Lotu-Iiga hired a morning suit for $145 to wear to the Coronation of the Tongan King. MPs and Ministers get an annual allowance of $16,560 to cover incidental work costs.
A spokesman for Mr Groser said the shirt was adjusted on the office credit card because it was an official shirt he was required to wear for a ministerial meeting in Peru rather than his own attire. He said Mr Groser would usually pay for tailoring work himself. Mr Groser's return also disclosed a laundry fee for the same shirt for US$27 at his hotel.
A spokeswoman said while Mr Lotu-Iiga had suits of his own, it was a formal occasion and a morning suit was the required dress.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully's expenses included oysters and fine wine from Soul Bar for a dinner with Fiji's foreign minister as well as a range of 'hospitality' events in New York where Mr McCully spent a fortnight while New Zealand was chairing the Security Council in July.
Other ministers went to some lengths to look frugal. Many paid tips out of their own pockets. Simon Bridges reported that in the Philippines he ate a free mango for breakfast everyday rather than gorging at the hotel buffet. Prime Minister John Key's office also appears to have made the most of a half-price sale at a Wellington store to stockpile on gifts such as vases and bowls for international dignitaries.
Overall, ministers spent $947,000 on international travel from July to the end of September. Only five of the 28 ministers did not have international travel costs. Mr Groser spent the most ($174,804) followed by Mr McCully ($164,477) and Mr Key ($112,160). MPs who are not ministers spent a total of $1.58 million in travel and accommodation. The highest spenders were those from far flung or large electorates in the north and south - National MP Todd Barclay (Clutha-Southland): $28,448; Labour MP Kelvin Davis (Te Tai Tokerau): $28,071; Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox (List): $28,006; National MP Mark Mitchell (Rodney): $27,598 and Labour MP Heeni Penare (Tamaki Makaurau): $24,196.