Colin King big spender
Marlborough-based MPs Colin King and Steffan Browning spent just over $45,500 between them in MPs' expenses in the last three months of last year.
Returns released in parliamentary expenses on Friday show that outside of the National Party ministers, Mr King, the Kaikoura electorate MP, was the biggest spender in his party, claiming $25,845 in expenses between October 1 and December 30, while Blenheim-based Mr Browning spent $19,730.
Mr King's expenses were made up of $5849 on accommodation and $19,996 on travel while Mr Browning spent $6128 on accommodation and $13,602 on travel.
Between July and September Mr King spent $20,043 while Mr Browning spent $19,254.
Mr King said his expenses were consistently high because of the size of his electorate, which covers the area from Cook Strait to the Ashley River just north of Rangiora in Canterbury. His biggest cost was regular trips between his offices in Blenheim and Amberley, he said.
He estimated each trip cost him about $1000, but said the expense was important to properly serve the people in his electorate.
"You try to spend as much time as you can with your constituents and driving down it would be cheaper, but you wouldn't get the time with people that you need," he said.
His expenses were similar to other MPs with large rural electorates and it was one of the pitfalls of how New Zealand electorates were divided up with electorates for every 60,000 people, he said.
Mr Browning said there was also an added cost for both Marlborough-based MPs in their role sitting on the primary production select committee, which meant they had responsibilities around the country.
Although he was also surprised sometimes by the amount of money that went on expenses, much of it came from the large amount of travel, which was part of the job, he said.
"For example, I had engagements in Christchurch yesterday, I drove up to Blenheim today, I will be driving back to Kaikoura this afternoon and I will probably be in Nelson tomorrow afternoon."
In total New Zealand MPs and ministers spent $2.6 million in travel, accommodation and out-of-town expenses in the last three months of the year.
- The Marlborough Express