Whale blogs on the domestic air travel bill for Nelson based List MP Maryan Street, being $82,000 over 15 months.
Based on the cost of flying to Nelson, it represents around 15 return flights a month, or 4 return flights a week. Now there will be some non Nelson travel, but even taking that into account, the cost seems very high.
Whale suggests the reason for the high cost is that Maryan’s partner is studying at Victoria University, and possibly is flying to and from Nelson every week also. It is important to stress that there is no proof this is the case. Also on a personal note, Maryan’s partner is a very nice person and I would ask people not to jump to conclusions or do any name calling.
The issue is whether or not the use of spousal travel to study is legitimate. The Speaker’s determination is quite clear:
3.8 Domestic air travel of spouses and partners
The spouse or partner of a member may travel by air at any time on scheduled air services throughout New Zealand, provided that the travel is not for private business purposes.
Flying to attend university is not for private business purposes, so it is absolutely clearly legal.
But the test is not always what is legal. For example it is legal for a Dunedin spouse to fly twice a week to Auckland to go shopping.
The test now being applied, is more “is it reasonable”. Most people think it is reasonable for a spouse to be able to fly to Wellington from time to time so they get to see each sometimes during the week.
But is flying to and from Wellington every week for study (even f the MP is not there) a good look?
Now again I want to stress that it is only an assumption that the travel perk may have been used for study purposes. There is no proof of this, and even if there is – it is entirely 100% within the rules.
But I think just as many other MPs have faced questioning over their level of expenses, it is reasonable for media to make inquiries as to whether this is why the travel expenses are so high for Maryan. It may be that it has nothing at all to do with this, and it is all the cost of travel to treaty settlements, as reported.