Tardy tally skews Ardern's annual expenses


National MP Shane Ardern's travel expenses in the final quarter of 2013 look worse than they should have because he was too busy to do the paperwork on time.

The Taranaki-King Country MP claimed $14,471 on surface travel, just behind front-runner Mana Party leader Hone Harawira ($14,901) who racked up $50,952 in total expenses.

Ardern's total expenditure for the quarter was $24,465, with surface and air travel accounting for $18,731, but he said the figure was skewed because it included costs from the previous quarter.

"What some do, who have more time than me and are more interested in every dollar that comes in, they fill them in every fortnight or month or whatever. Sometimes it takes me six or eight months to get around to doing it," he said.

That impacted on his travel expense figure but he said it would average out over a 12-month period. He said all details were taken from his log book and were accurate.

"That has a substantial impact on the quarter as opposed to another quarter, hence the explanation between my October-December disclosure 2013, and my July-September disclosure 2013, one being $14,471 and the other one being $2436."

His electorate stretches from Hamilton to New Plymouth but he said there were no direct flights between the two centres and a connecting flight to Wellington or Auckland would cost too much, so driving was his preferred option.

"It would cost four or five times the cost for mileage for the vehicle," he said.

"It would take too much time and time is the big issue for me."

Figures release by Parliamentary services showed MPs spent more than $3.8 million on travel and accommodation in the quarter, rounding out the costs of travel for the year to just over $11m.

Ministerial expenses for the three months to December 31 showed ministers spent a total of $1,992,624 on travel.

Other Waikato MPs topping the $24,000 mark were National MP for Taupo Louise Upston and Labour MP for Hauraki-Waikato Nanaia Mahuta. But they were well behind parliamentary col-leagues such as Mr Harawira ($50,952), Labour Party leader David Cunliffe ($38,428) and National's Mike Sabin ($38,609). Upston spent $24,623 on accommodation and travel and Mahuta spent $24,072.

Upston's electorate stretches from Tirau to Raetihi and air travel accounted for $9435. She spent $8593 on driving.

A spokesperson for Ms Upston said the costs were in line with the amount of travel done in her duties as an MP.

Mahuta spent $9287 on flights and $7451 on driving for a disclosed figure of $24,072. She said Maori electorate MPs had a lot of travelling to do.

"Sometimes it's easier, just because of the nature of the Maori electorates, to fly from here to there. I try and ensure that I'm visible and at events," she said.

"You try and do things efficiently so that you're not driving long distances for one-offs, you try and have a whole lot of things along the way."

Waikato Times