Blowing ratepayer money on overseas trips 'indefensible' - Auckland councillor

An Auckland councillor says using ratepayer money to cover the cost of business-class trips overseas is "indefensible".

Councillors John Watson and Efeso Collins had their proposal to investigate overspending on work trips dismissed, following revelations almost half of a total $1.1 million was spent on business-class flights.

"We didn't even get to the starting line," Mr Watson told The AM Show.

"It's pretty disappointing."

One council trip to the United Kingdom, detailed in the council report, cost more than NZ$15,000 - well above the $3000 an economy class round trip to London currently costs.

Council chief executive Stephen Town rejected the notice of motion, meaning it will not even reach the meeting agenda.

A spokesperson told NZME the proposal was rejected because the matter is already under review.

But Mr Watson says he's heard that excuse before.

"The reality is business-class travelling and the controversy that goes with it has been going on since 2010 - probably a lot longer.

"I think it's just to save public scrutiny to be honest."

Mr Watson says using ratepayer money to cover unnecessary expenditure is "indefensible".

"The public's had enough of it. This is ratepayer money - it's a terrible look."

The figures do not include council-controlled organisations such as Watercare and Auckland Transport.

'He's a faceless bureaucrat'

The AM Show host Duncan Garner laid out a challenge to Auckland mayor Phil Goff to overrule Mr Town.

"Unelected officials should not get in the way of the people and not get in the way of democracy.

"These two councillors were voted in. They went out there, spent their money, and got voted in. Town was not voted in. He's a faceless bureaucrat."

During his mayoral campaign, Mr Goff was critical of the council's spending, and said he would look at merging back-office services.

Earlier this year Mr Goff planned a significant cost-cutting review, pushing to increase savings and identify areas where budgets can be slashed.

"There's a lot of work to be done, but that is a saving that I'll be pushing to realise," Mr Goff said earlier this month.


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