MP's electorate office rented from partner

Labour list MP Louisa Wall is using taxpayer money to rent her Manurewa electorate office – from her civil-union partner.

Although within the rules, the loophole has previously sparked debate about who should benefit from parliamentary funding arrangements.

Three years ago it was revealed seven MPs – including Prime Minister John Key and current Cabinet ministers Phil Heatley, Gerry Brownlee and Amy Adams – had bought their offices and then billed the taxpayer for the rent.

MPs are given a capped allowance to cover the cost of running offices outside Wellington. They must declare if they have a pecuniary interest.

Ms Wall says Prue Kapua bought the Manurewa office in December after she won her safe seat.

The former Silver and Black Fern insists the Great South Rd property is being rented at below market value and she is not benefiting financially. She could not say how much the rent was.

Parliamentary Service said it does not discuss individual MPs. However, a spokeswoman said if "a partner/significant other/member owns a property, a market valuation is taken and the rental payment by the service is based on that valuation".

Records show the property was sold on November 9 to a company called TKL. Ms Kapua, a lawyer, is the sole shareholder and director. It was bought for $405,000, $25,000 less than the July rateable value.

"There is a list of MPs who own their own offices ... so your question to me is what?" Ms Wall said.

It was incorrect to say the property was bought before the election. But she added: "I don't know when it was bought, but it was bought after the general election.

"Actually, that's got nothing to do with me. I rent a space so I don't own the building.

"It's a completely separate business. I'm not a shareholder or a beneficiary of that business.

"The other thing that I want to highlight is that I declared the interest after I'd been elected and I had decided that I would rent that property.

"We had to go through a process with Parliamentary Service of getting an independent valuation ... and what I can tell you is that my rent is less than the market rental.

"The real question is which MPs own their offices."

Parliamentary Service said it could not provide the number of MPs with similar arrangements.

An investigation in 2009 revealed Labour owned offices which it was renting to MPs for an average of $13,500.

Former state services commissioner Mark Prebble criticised MPs for buying their electorate offices and renting them back to Parliament in his book With Respect. "Accommodation allowances and electoral office support are intended to assist members to attend Parliament, not to build a property portfolio," he said.

The Dominion Post