The roving Pacific ambassador role specially created for now government minister Shane Jones cost taxpayers $1 million in salary and expenses over three years. The Act Party says it was a waste of money and there is nothing to show for it.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Mfat) has also confirmed there are no plans to fill the role left vacant by Jones when his term ended a year ago.
An Official Information Act response from Mfat said expenses for Jones, now a NZ First MP and Regional Economic Development, Forestry and Infrastructure Minister, totalled $296,737.24 from May 2014 to May 2017.
The bulk of that - $264,103.75 – was for travel and accommodation. The next biggest expense was $16,325.29 for mobile phones charges; then $13,758.61 for catering and hosting.
The salary band for the role of Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development was $183,175-$247,825 a year. The salary range applied to similar appointments, Mfat said.
"During his term, Ambassador Jones made significant contributions in a number of areas to and secured a number of achievements."
It listed 10 achievements, one of which was "serving as an active champion of New Zealand's efforts to support a sustainable and well-managed fisheries resource for Pacific Island countries, delivering increased economic returns".
Jones said there was a lot of international travel involved in his role, much of which was supporting cabinet ministers.
"It's the name of the game, when you're promoting, advancing and securing the interests of New Zealand internationally, it is not an inexpensive process.
"The role of a lot of senior ambassadors is that they're brokerage people, they're brokering relationships, they're brokering connections. They're ensuring that New Zealand is integrally involved in the development of the Pacific. That's why you get a person like me to do the mahi (work).
Act leader David Seymour said Jones had achieved little in three years.
"It just confirms everything that I've ever said about government waste in general and Shane Jones in particular. He's spent a million bucks of taxpayers' money in three years in a position that was created for him and has not been required or filled since he left it. He achieved nothing of any tangible benefit whatsoever other than a bunch of talkfests." Seymour said.
Jones said he was not employed to produce tangible results.
"When you say 'where are the concrete projects?' I wasn't employed for that purpose."
Jones said all the expenses he incurred as ambassador were the expenses of Mfat.
"It is exceedingly difficult and expensive to travel around the Pacific."
"The role and expenses incurred would not be significantly different to highly placed people in Mfat around the world."
Mfat said there were no plans to replace Jones.
"A new ambassador to Pacific Development has not been appointed and there are no plans to appoint someone to this role at this point. Aspects of this role have now been spread across a number of positions within the ministry," it said.
Jones said he was not surprised he had not been replaced.
"It was a role that you'd struggle to find someone with the right blend of experience."
Jones was a Labour MP when he was shoulder-tapped by Former National government foreign affairs minister Murray McCully for the specially created role in 2014.
McCully said at the time the role was intended to supplement, not replace, the work already been undertaken by ministers and officials.
A month after Jones' three-year term ended in May 2017, he joined NZ First and was made a minister in the Coalition Government after last year's election.
Salary – between $183,175 and $247,825 per annum
Expenses over three years - $296,737.24 (travel and accommodation $264,103.75, mobile phone charges $16,325.29, catering and hosting $13,758.61, iPad and phone accessories $1006.42, books, periodicals and newspapers $907.43, presentation items/koha $352.46, meeting fee $150, credit card fees $133.28