Another school has defended its spending after an Auditor General's report revealed questionable spending.

Puhinui School board gave its principal an $8500 ride-on mower as a leaving gift. Kevin Hornby had led the school for about 30 years.

Board of trustees chairman Les Waimotu said all the teachers and parents knew about and were supportive of the expensive gift.

"That was a small token given to him for recognition of 30 years at our school and 45 years in the education sector."


Waimotu said the mower was for Hornby's own lawns as he lived on a large property. It was not so he could mow the school lawns.

"After he's been principal I doubt we'd hire him back as the caretaker."

An Auditor-General's report released on Thursday named and shamed schools for their use of funds - including overseas travel, a $7000 staff party and gifts for principals and "wellbeing" payments.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern today said she had not seen the report, but the spending as described sounded "hugely surprising".

"I would find that hugely surprising given the environment our schools are operating in. And particularly parents who are paying donations I think would also be surprised by that kind of spending," Ardern said during her weekly post-Cabinet press conference.

"Unless that ride-on lawnmower was given to him so he could chop the fields of that school, I would be very surprised by that. It's not something I have been briefed on."

Blockhouse Bay Intermediate in 2016 spent $7000 on a farewell party and a $3000 leaving gift for the principal, exceeding the $1000 expenditure approved by the board.

The same year, the school did not pass on $3700 collected specifically for Fiji flood victims, instead using the money for school purposes.


Blockhouse Bay Intermediate was one of several schools that gave farewell gifts the Auditor-General deemed excessive, saying spending on such occasions should be "moderate and conservative".

Blockhouse Bay Intermediate board of trustees chairman Russell Matthews said the financial situation pertains to the 2015/2016 year. When a new board and management was appointed they immediately talked with the Ministry of Education to take corrective actions and decisions - some of which are still being finalised.

Matthews said that the relief money for Fiji had not been spent.

"This came to our knowledge in 2017. We have been working with the auditors and will make provision in early 2018 to support aide relief and or charity work in Fiji.

"We want to acknowledge the work done to date. The school is in excellent health both financially and educationally."

Manurewa West Primary principal David Wallis who pocketed a $550 "wellbeing"' payment is defending his board, saying the auditors got it wrong and the spending was justified.

Wallis said he took issue with sections of the audit, saying there was nothing to hide - including the reason for the $550 one-off payment for a mini-break after a stressful final term. He also disputed funding over international travel, saying the taxpayer had not had to foot a cent for a trip to Asia.

"It's a black mark and we're a top school. We're a very, very successful school and it doesn't read well at all," he said.