The expenses incurred by a city's mayor while in office are regularly subject to public scrutiny. With this year's local body elections nearing and many incumbent mayors seeking re-election, a magnifying glass has been put over their expense card transactions and reimbursements. We look at the expenses Rotorua's mayor has incurred since her re-election in 2016, how it compares with other mayors of similar-sized cities and why she's been labelled "frugal" by the taxpayers' union.
Rotorua's mayor has been labelled "frugal" by the New Zealand Taxpayers' Union after the release of her expense card transactions and reimbursements.
Between November 1, 2016 and April 26, 2019, mayor Steve Chadwick's expenses totalled $5579.
This includes her credit, debit and purchase card transactions and expense reimbursements, not the overall mayoral office expenses.
The information was released to the union under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.
Of the mayor's expenses, a dinner with John Chadwick, Trevor Maxwell, Professor Gang Hoan-Jeong and Kwonhee Chun (International Relations) had the highest price tag, costing $345.
Other expenses included an executive support staff thank you totalling $133.40, taxi fares, coffee, morning tea, a Rotorua Daily Post digital monthly subscription, and a meal with the Ambassador of Mexico.
New Zealand Taxpayers' Union researcher Luke Redward said the information request was sent to all major urban councils.
"Each council response was slightly different, showing different protocols and procedures. For example, the mayor of Tauranga doesn't claim flights on his expense card whereas the mayor of Hamilton does.
"The mayor of Rotorua's expenses totalled $5579. Compared with similar-sized councils that we asked, [she] appears frugal. For example, the mayor of Hamilton spent $7125 and the mayor of Nelson spent $10,112."
Redward said the union was interested in this spending because "mayors need to set the fiscally responsible tone for their councils".
"Even when mayors think their spending is lower than at other councils, they should not use this as an excuse for complacency.
"There is room for cost-cutting in every mayor's office. For example, the released figures reveal an alarming trend of most councils flying to sister cities for delegation visits."
Redward said this was, in his opinion, an unnecessary use of funds.
"What value do ratepayers get when mayors from smaller New Zealand cities jet to faraway places like mainland China?"
Chadwick said part of the role of mayor was to be an ambassador and with Rotorua being a tourist destination she was often hosting diplomats and visitors sent here by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as dignitaries and ministers of the Crown.
"Any expenses incurred have been as part of mayoral duties.
"We are all very careful about spending. It's all subject to public scrutiny and audit and that's how it should be."
Rotorua Residents and Ratepayers Association chairwoman Glenys Searancke said she was pleased the mayor had kept her expenses low.
"It's a good thing to be frugal, good on them for keeping it in check.
"The question to be asked is if one mayor can keep her expenses to $5500, what are the others spending money on and is it to the benefit of ratepayers?"