Over $1 million was spent on the travel expenses of former New Zealand politicians over the past year, a new Government report has revealed.
Working as an MP comes with some enticing bonuses, such as having domestic and international travel expenses covered for life. The perk only applies to MPs elected prior to 1999 and those who served at least three years.
Entitlements for former members of Parliament and their spouses are outlined in the Members of Parliament (Remuneration and Services) Act 2013. Former prime ministers are entitled to free travel if they are carrying out duties as a former leader.
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The Parliamentary Service annual report for 2017-2018 shows the total amount of expenditure on travel entitlements for former members and their spouses or partners came to $1,113,979 (including taxes).
The highest spending couple were former National MP Roger Maxwell and his partner. The pair cost the taxpayer $22,180 for domestic and international travel costs. Former Labour MP Steve Maharey and his partner weren't far behind, with $21,916 spent on international travel.
Peter Dunne, former leader of United Future, spent $18,044 on international travel expenses with his spouse, the report shows. Another high-spender was former National MP Warren Kyd, who spent $19,542 on international travel expenses for him and his partner.
Not all former MPs have spent money on their partners, and rather only claimed travel expenses for themselves. This includes former Labour MPs Kerry Burke and Marian Hobbs, who spent $10,397 and $9022 on international travel, respectively.
The information in the report includes travel which commenced prior to 30 June 2018 for which reimbursement requests were received by 8 August 2018. Claims received after then will be disclosed in the next annual report.
Travel expenses are a contentious issue for politicians in New Zealand, which National leader Simon Bridges knows only too well. Newshub was leaked MPs' expenses in August, revealing Mr Bridges has spent $113,000 in taxpayer money on limos and hotels.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern later announced she would freeze the allowances and salaries of all MPs for a year, despite them being due for a pay rise, to develop a "fairer formula" for future pay increases.