Wellington's mayor is on a $30,000 leadership course at a luxury five-star resort in Queenstown paid for from the ratepayers' purse.
A brochure said the course cost almost $30,000, which included programme fees, transfers, meals, accommodation, and post-programme coaching.
Questions have been flying over Mayor Andy Foster's whereabouts.
It's understood city councillors are frustrated he was not at a final workshop this week for elected members to deliberate on the council's upcoming draft annual plan.
Inquiries made by the Herald revealed Foster was completing an Institute for Strategic Leadership course at the Millbrook Resort.
The resort boasts a 27-hole championship golf course, an award-winning day spa, a health and fitness centre with gymnasium, 25m lap pool, outdoor hot pools, sauna, and conference facility.
The programme's website said the course was for chief executives and senior executives seeking to become better role models for their organisations.
The course includes a lifestyle coach and the website said participants would embark on a "unique leadership development journey".
The programme is aimed at leaders including those demonstrating behaviours that indicate high IQ but low awareness of their impact on others, or who were leading outside their area of expertise, or who wanted to refresh their leadership.
Foster has faced recent criticism for his lack of leadership over the city's water woes after two significant failures sent millions of litres of wastewater into the harbour and prompted an elaborate sludge trucking operation.
The brochure for the course said some participants found it "life-changing" and others "transformational".
To attend the leadership course, Foster missed a final workshop with councillors to work through the council's draft annual plan before papers are released publicly.
Many consider the draft plan as Foster's chance to stamp his election agenda on the upcoming year, and eyebrows have been raised over his absence this week.
Initial inquiries made by the Herald to Foster's office confirmed he was on the six-day leadership course in Queenstown.
The Herald asked Foster's office why the course was considered a good use of his time.
A council spokesman said the course was part of Foster's professional development, and professional development was available to all elected members.
"During this time the mayor remains across all urgent or important Council matters", the spokesman said.
But further inquiries revealed the course was at a five-star resort at a cost of up to $30,000.
The spokesman said council regularly paid for development training for its elected members.
Foster told the Herald he and council staff considered several different courses but this was the one they "landed on".
He said it was an internationally recognised programme and about 2000 people had completed it over the past 20 years, including former prime minister Bill English.
Foster said ratepayers would be getting value for money.
"It's like any form of educational training, the cost is immediate, but the benefits, some of them may be quite quick and some of them may take a bit longer."