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REVEALED: Whangarei Ratepayers charged $91,000 for art junket

The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union has revealed that the Whangarei Arts Museum Trust spent $91,168 – including business class flights to Dubai – for 11 people to visit Vienna and see a Hundertwasser painting.

In total, Whangarei Art Museum Trust a Council CCO spent $71,308 flying 11 people return to Vienna via Auckland, and $19,860 was spent on accommodation.

Whangarei Council's purpose for the trip was to ‘gain an insight of what is involved in the realisation of a Hundertwasser creation and construction, and to strengthen relationships with our partners abroad.’ If this was a simple fact-finding mission why were 11 people required and why did they travel business class? Better to call it what it is, a junket.

Councils should be focused on core services – like roads, water, and rubbish – not international art trips for 11 people. Whangarei ratepayers deserve better.

Below is the full official information response from Whangarei District Council.

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Dear Tabitha

I refer to your official information request of 17 August [reference COP002396] seeking information on flights and international trips.

Your request was referred to Council’s Finance Department for consideration. The responses below are based on data provided by our CCOS, our preferred travel supplier, and a high-level analysis of our general ledger accounts for travel expenses.

Domestic travel
1) 
the total spend on all domestic flights by your Council in the 2017/2018 financial year.
2) the total number of domestic flights flown in the same period.

 

1.Total spent on domestic flights ( exc GST)

2.Total flights flown

Council

$80,078

183

CCO’s

$3,093

23

Total

$82,408

206

International travel
3) the total spend on all international flights in the 2017/2018 financial year;

 

3.Total spend on international flights

Council  (a)

$8,051

CCO’s – Whangarei Art Museum Trust (b)

$71,308 – costs were incurred in the 17/18 year but travel was not until July 2018

Total

$79,359

4) a list of each international itinerary flown in the same period, including the:

Ref

Destination

Travellers

Reason for travel

Travel class flown

a)i

Townsville, Australia (return trip) 

1 person

fact finding trip regarding the effectiveness of recyclables sorting facility

Economy

a)ii

Perth, Australia (return trip)

1 person

Local Government Chief Executive Conference

Premium Economy

a)iii

Adelaide, Australia (return trip)

1 person

Local Government Chief Officers Group Conference

The total cost of the return flights for this trip was $690.  We have been unable to definitively confirm the class of travel in this instance as the flights were originally booked by a third party agency.  However, given the cost of the flights they are assumed to have been Economy class flights

a)iv

Brisbane, Australia (return trip)

4 people

ICT Project Planning Meeting

Economy

b)

Auckland-Dubai, Dubai-Vienna (return trip)

11 people

To gain an insight/ understanding of what is involved in the realisation of a Hundertwasser creation and construction, and to strengthen relationships with our partners abroad

 

Auckland-Dubai (return): Business

Dubai-Vienna (return): Economy

5) costs for each international itinerary, please also provide details of all associated:

Ref

Entertainment

Food

Accommodation

Conference costs

Transport and transfers

Other

Other (details)

a)i

-

122.32

388.00

-

276.76

75.00

Airport Parking

a)ii

-

-

393.14

680.87

435.42

30.00

Lock n Fly

a)iii

-

252.91

 

320.50

612.55

 

-

 

a)iv

-

269.66

2,313.23

-

239.38

-

 

b)

 

 

19,860

Travel did not occur until July 2018. Accommodation was prepaid in June 2018 so has been included for completeness.

6) For each international itinerary, please tell us if a domestic partner also travelled with the official.

a)i-iv: No
b): 3 partners also travelled but covered their own costs. These costs are not included in the above.

I hope this information is of some assistance. If you believe we have not responded appropriately to your request, you have the right by way of complaint, under section 27(3) of the Act, to apply to the Ombudsman to seek an investigation and review of the decision.

Yours sincerely,
[Redacted]


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