Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted she was “surprised” at the almost $12,000 taxpayer-funded bill for former Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters’ farewell bash at Parliament.
She has asked officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Mfat) to look into the bill to ensure it did actually cost as much as has been reported.
This morning, the Herald revealed the event – where roughly 100 MPs and diplomats gathered to thank Peters for his time in the job – cost $11,733.
That cost was split between Mfat and the office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The information was obtained under the official information act (OIA) and confirmed by both parties.
Despite this, Ardern said she has asked Foreign Affairs officials to look at the bill as it was surprising to her.
“I have to admit, I am surprised by that,” she said when asked about the bill.
She said she attended the event and described it as a “very standard function” and that’s why the bill was surprising.
“It wasn’t a stand out to me as by any stretch, it was anything other than a standard event.”
It is understood that drinks and canapes were served at the function, which is not unusual for an event like that in Parliament.
Ardern said: “It was an opportunity for the diplomatic corps to farewell and acknowledges Winston Peters but also to meet the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.”
Although diplomats were there, Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta – who spoke at the event – said: “Tonight is about saying thank you to the Right Honourable Peters and his team.”
In fact, the event was listed on Mfat’s website as a “celebration of Rt Hon Winston Peters’ tenure as Foreign Minister”.
According to an Official Information Request (OIA) for the Taxpayers’ Union, the bill covered the cost of catering, technical/AV and furniture hire.
The Herald asked Mfat if the $12,000 cost was reasonable to farewell a politician but it did not respond.
A request has been sought for a breakdown of the costs for the evening.
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