Councillors have free access to a plush corporate box at Waikato Stadium and premium seating at most events at Founders Theatre and Claudelands Event Centre. The events include rugby, concerts, musicals, ballet, etc. Some of the reasons we have this privilege include networking, building relationships and representing the organisation.
Sometimes it’s appropriate for councillors to represent the city in this way, but in many ways I believe these free tickets have become a perk and we as councillors are taking an advantage at ratepayers’ expense. But more than this, there’s no accountability or transparency in the city’s bookkeeping to show the actual costs of councillors using these privileges.
When an All Blacks game is on, our corporate box could be leased out for that match. If the Mayor or councillors decided they wanted to use it to host dignitaries they should book it, and pay the market rate, through their Council budget. As Council owns the Stadium we would be leasing it off ourselves, so it would be a book entry, no money would change hands. But this goes against the relevant budget and becomes an accountable item instead of a hidden cost.
At other times when we are not hosting dignitaries, some councillors are using the box. To me this becomes a perk and is wrong. In this case it should be offered for lease for that game to the market.
In the end, an amendment was presented and passed which retained the status quo and accountability and transparency for councillors costs associated with events and entertainment will not be recorded. Those voting for accountability were myself, Martin Gallagher, Garry Mallett, Karina Green & Dave Macpherson. Those voting against were Mayor Julie Hardaker, Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman and councillors Margaret Forsyth, Angela O’Leary, Ewan Wilson, Phillip Yeung, Leo Tooman and Rob Pascoe.
Photo by Fairfax NZ. Used with permission from Stuff.co.nz