Economy or business-class? Auckland Council set to decide

Two councillors - one from Auckland's poorest ward, the other from one of the wealthiest - want the council to stop spending so much on travel.

Efeso Collins of Manukau and John Watson of Albany are backing a proposed change to the council's travel spending rules.

The recommendation is that for all flights less than eight hours, councillors and staff have to fly economy. Above eight hours, they have the option to fly premium economy. Business-class would be off the menu.

"We're not prepared to travel business-class," Mr Collins told The AM Show on Thursday. "No one should be. It's not our money."

Efeso Collins.
Efeso Collins. Photo credit: The AM Show

Auckland Council spent more than $1 million on international travel in the 20 months to August last year, more than half of that on business-class flights.

Mr Collins and Mr Watson tried to get the council to discuss the topic last year, but were shut down by Auckland Council CEO Stephen Town.

"The public's had enough of it," Mr Watson told The AM Show in November. "This is ratepayer money - it's a terrible look."

Mr Watson pointed out the council's spending on business-class flights was more than its budget for ending homelessness.

Mr Town said the spending was already being investigated. The recommendations of that investigation, contained in a report titled 'Do the Right Thing', will be voted on by councillors on Thursday. Mr Collins isn't convinced they've got the numbers to pass it however.

"I'm not sure. We've been talking to a few people who are sitting on the fence."

John Watson.
John Watson. Photo credit: The AM Show

Even if the proposal fails, he said he won't be living large at the ratepayers' expense.

"I don't want to travel, I shouldn't travel and I won't travel business class. I don't think anyone in the civil service should be.

"We've got an example where the CEO of Watercare, he had a fare going somewhere. They paid for economy class and he paid the difference to upgrade himself to business. That's how it should be done."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff promised to rein in spending. Newshub has contacted him for comment on how he might vote.