Higher MP perks for travel, housing

New MPs are in line for even higher taxpayer-funded travel and housing perks, after a review of entitlements.

The Remuneration Authority, which sets MPs' pay, is today set to publish a new determination.

It is understood MPs elected next month can look forward to a Wellington housing allowance of $28,000, up $4000 from the current payment. Ministers can expect $41,000 - or $789 a week - towards their housing costs. The accommodation allowance subsidises the cost of renting or buying a house in Wellington if the MPs are from out of town.

As well as free travel, the spouses, partners or children of MPs will also get 20 free flights a year. However, the independent authority has rejected MPs' requests that this be raised to 30 flights.

The rules around claiming these flights - when the MP is on parliamentary or ministerial business - have also been tightened.

A plea to boost the amount politicians can claim for hotel rooms in Auckland and Christchurch has also failed. MPs wanted $210 a night, plus breakfast, parking and internet access - but the authority has set the limit at $210, up from $180 a night.

Politicians won't lose out - they can now claim meals, internet use and parking on expenses.

MPs will also be able to include one or more family members "within the nightly maximums" of hotel allowances.

A proposed limit on travel for children under 5 years old was also removed, after lobbying from party whips.

A daily allowance of $350 a day - or $500 with spouse or partner - for ministers, the Speaker and Leader of the Opposition has also changed. They will now get $260 a night for accommodation (or $290 in Auckland and Christchurch) plus an extra $80 for their spouse's evening meal. Their own evening meal can be claimed on expenses.

The review comes after new legislation on politicians' remuneration was enacted last year. The authority gave MPs a 2.2 per cent rise on their base salaries in November.

A backbench MP gets about $150,000 a year and a Cabinet minister just under $270,000.

MPs' perks have also undergone an overhaul in recent years after a public outcry. An international travel rebate was axed in 2010.

A review in the same year found spending on services to Parliament and MPs had blown out from $54 million in 1991 to almost $140m.

The new determination will be published in the New Zealand Gazette today and copies have already been distributed to Parliamentary Service, Ministerial Services, Speaker David Carter and party leaders and will be distributed to MPs today.

The authority sent its proposals to MPs in June for consultation, and received a submission from party whips last month.

They argued that $210 a night for Auckland and Christchurch hotels was "too low" because it did not include the extras like breakfast, wi-fi and parking. Whips had wanted the submission to remain under wraps.

 

WHAT THEY GET

MPs' Wellington housing allowance: currently $24,000 (inclusive of GST), rises to $28,000 a year.

Ministers, speaker and deputy speaker housing allowance: $37,500, rises to $41,000 a year.

Hotel allowance for MPs: $160 a night, rises to $190.

Christchurch and Auckland hotel allowance for MPs: $180 a night, rises to $220.

MPS ALSO GET:

$850 a year for the installation of a home security system plus up to $600 a year for repairs, monitoring and callouts.

20 free one-way flights a year for relatives (to join an MP on business) - or 30 for ministers.

For children aged 5-17, up to 8 one-way trips a year, up from the current limit of four. Unlimited travel for under fives.

Stuff