Auckland Council spending on overseas travel

Business class travel

Auckland Council spends a lot of money on overseas travel.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff wants council bosses to end business class travel and fly premium economy on long flights.

The revised rule comes as a Herald survey of overseas travel by the chief executives and leadership teams of Auckland Council and the six council-controlled organisations (CCOs) shows they are taking fewer offshore trips after Goff began a crackdown last year.

The survey found council and CCO bosses racked up $524,487 on overseas trips to Asia, the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia in the first 11 months of Goff’s leadership from November 2016 to mid-September last year.

Goff is still concerned with the level of spending and told the Herald that staff across the entire council will fly economy for flights of less than eight hours and premium economy for any over eight hours.

“Business class will be available if the relevant chief executive determines that the staff member must work immediately on arrival and there is no reasonable alternative,” he said. […]

The business class rules seem reasonable and are similar to guidelines that businesses in the private sector use. But, I’m curious to know why so many overseas trips are necessary. The six groups comprising Auckland Council – Panuku Development Auckland, Regional Facilities Auckland, Watercare Services, Auckland Transport and Ateed – made a total of 80 overseas trips in 11 months to rack up that $524,487.  I’m wondering what the rules are for what travel is deemed necessary, and whether a video conference would suffice.

This is even more surprising:

[…] Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), criticised by Goff last year over soaring travel costs of $926,606 has trimmed spending by senior executives.

In 2016, Ateed chief executive Brett O’Riley made seven overseas trips costing $62,134. In the 10 months before he left Ateed, O’Riley made two overseas trips costing $14,009.

New Ateed chief executive Nick Hill said greater rigour and accountability had been introduced to overseas travel, including a 10 per cent reduction target. […]

So, in 2016, Ateed spent $926,606 on overseas travel, yet in 2017 have spent only $42,164. I’m really confused. Not complaining, of course. The 2016 figures were astronomical so, of course, they should have reduced. But, if those numbers are correct, then that is a huge reduction in cost. To be exact, $884,442 less for 2017 than for 2016. You would have to ask why. Were all of those trips made during 2016 really necessary, and if so, were they necessarily that expensive? Something doesn’t add up.


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