Oil and gas travel costs taxpayer nearly $1M


Nearly $1 million was spent on international travel over the last three years promoting the country's oil and gas industry.

Figures from New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals (NZPM) show $412,186 was used for flights and transportation, while $260,634 was racked up at hotels.

Another $248,528 was spent by officials attending and hosting events, functions or conferences overseas which aimed to promote oil and gas exploration in New Zealand.

The organisation has just 69 staff and is in charge of managing the Crown's oil, gas, coal, and mineral reserves.

NZPM is a branch of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment which has come under fire numerous times this year for excessive spending on new signs, a curved television, a rooftop sundeck and hair straighteners for its bathrooms.

Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges is making no apology for the expenditure, and says they have an important job to do selling New Zealand's block offer programme to the world.

"Spending $1 million on travel in order to promote New Zealand's sector is money well spent.

"We shouldn't be anything other than sensible and responsible in our spending but I do think they need go overseas and I do think they need to promote this sector," Mr Bridges adds.

He is pouring cold water on suggestions the officials are flying business class at the taxpayers' expense, saying the cheapest tickets are usually purchased.

"I think you'll find that generally speaking, ministry staff when flying, fly in economy class," he says.

Labour's state services spokesperson Kris Faafoi says the international travel bill is excessive for a Government department with just 69 workers.

"Some of it may be justified, but for such a small amount of people and such a large amount of money, and with decreasing revenues from that department, you have to ask if it is spending its money wisely."

He says it is hypocritical of the Government to tell departments to spend less, but then say it is reasonable for NZPM to spend this much on travel.

"I keep saying if you're not looking after the pennies, you can't look after the pounds, and that's one of those situations," Mr Faafoi says.

Averaged out, the spending is around $13,000 per employee – but not all of them travelled.