The chance to debate Auckland Council's business-class and premium-class travel expenditure has been rejected by its chief executive.

An Auckland Council report found $1.1 million had been spent on international travel from the 20 months up until August this year. Of that almost half, $509,212 was spent on 62 business-class flights.

The figures did not include council-controlled organisations Watercare and Auckland Transport.

One trip to the United Kingdom cost $15,782. A round trip to London currently costs $3022 for economy class tickets from Air New Zealand.


Councillors Efeso Collins and John Watson put forward a notice of motion for a November 21 meeting of the finance and performance committee.

The motion was to exclude Auckland Council funding being used to purchase business-class and premium-economy flights and to mandate all staff and elected members to proactively report all international travel (destination, purpose of trip and cost) on the Auckland Council website.

But chief executive Stephen Town rejected the notice of motion, which meant it would not be put on the agenda for the meeting.

An Auckland Council spokesperson said it was declined because the matter was already being investigated and due to be reported back to the Finance and Performance Committee in February/March 2018.

"The matter will be more effectively considered as a wider piece of work on expenditure rather than a singular notice of motion."

Watson disagreed and said the motion should be put to the vote now.

He said the spending was clearly excessive and had been an issue since the Super City's inception in 2010. In 2014 a motion to scrap business-class travel was overturned by a casting vote from the chairman after a draw.

"This should be decided right here and now it doesn't have to wait.


"That [spending] is indefensible in this current environment of budgetary restraints and people doing it tough. It's the behaviour you'd expect from big private corporations not a council struggling to make its books balance.

"There's a culture of entitlement, they are just going to keep travelling business class irrespective of what the public think."

The council travel policy is that business-class flights can be considered for long-haul international travel longer than eight hours where staff are expected to carry out business within 24 hours of arrival without an opportunity for rest.

All flights needed to be signed off by a council manager one tier up from the traveller.

If council staff fly on an economy-class ticket for more than eight hours with no stopover they are entitled to 24 hours paid recovery time.

Watson said the solution is to go a day earlier on an economy-class ticket. It was far more economical to pay an extra $200 for an additional night of accommodation than $10,000 for a business-class upgrade. The traveller could then spend that day recovering or working remotely.

"They wouldn't be paying that money themselves if it was personal, so why pay for it when it's the public's money?" Watson said.

Albany Ward Councillor John Watson of Auckland City Council is upset his motion on exorbitant travel spenditure was dismissed by Council. Photo / Nick Reed
Albany Ward Councillor John Watson of Auckland City Council is upset his motion on exorbitant travel spenditure was dismissed by Council. Photo / Nick Reed

Council staff travel policy is that the most direct routes at the lowest cost must always be taken and alternatives to travel such as teleconferencing or videoconferencing are always considered.

Correspondence from Town to Watson, seen by the Herald, stated that the majority of travel was undertaken in relation to debt-financing and insurance-renewal negotiations.

"The savings secured through direct negotiations with overseas parties significantly mitigates the initial travel expenses and reduces the overall cost of running council."

A council document stated that travel expenditure was actually decreasing year-on-year. In 2014/2015 $660,382 was spent on travel, that then dropped in 2015/2016 to $449,656.

Auckland Transport figures were not included in the reported numbers. They provided separate analysis that showed 12 return business-class flights were purchased at a cost of $124,366.