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Coast Council Chair Vehicle Allowance Dropped

The West Coast Regional Council will beef up reporting of expense reimbursements immediately after a reminder from the Remuneration Authority.

But council has agreed to forego in its policy the authority allowing for its chairman to claim up to the $68,000 maximum for a vehicle.

Council on May 7 accepted a recommendation it must immediately publish its expenses reimbursement policy on its website, after an audit by the Remuneration Authority.

A report to council said staff were recently made aware it should have its expenses policy on the website and was issued a reminder "of this requirement," council statutory consultant Toni Morrison said.

"It is a matter of some urgency that one is adopted, to ensure we comply," she said.

It had followed "a bit of a monitoring exercise" by the authority.

However Ms Morrison said with the next round from the authority for 2024-25 pending, the policy would almost need to be immediately reviewed.

The West Coast Regional Council's territory is 650km long, the distance from Auckland to Wellington, however the Remuneration Authority's driving time allowance has caused some debate. Image: West Coast Regional Council

It dealt with allowances and expenses for elected members for council business needs and travel, within parameters.

The current Remuneration Authority allowances and expenses for 2023-24 allows a maximum purchase of $55,000 for a petrol/diesel vehicle, and $68,000 for an electric/hybrid vehicle for mayors or chairs.

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The vehicle use reimbursement is 95 cents per km for the first 14,000km for a petrol/diesel vehicle then 34 cents per km.

Councillors can claim 95 cents per km for the first 14,000km then 20 cents for a hybrid vehicle; and 95 cents per km then 11 cents per km for electric vehicles.

A travel time allowance of $40 per hour is also set by the authority.

Chairman Peter Haddock said he did not believe the council had ever utilised the travel time allowance, "and I don't think it should be".

Cr Frank Dooley said there was no harm in having it, but he was happy "to donate" his time given his travel time from Westport represented $80 per occasion.

But council needed to consider its pool of future representatives who needed to juggle paid employment in order to stand.

"We need to encourage young people to put their names forward. That's why I was really pleased to see it in there," Cr Dooley said.

The same went for the child care allowance.

Cr Haddock said councillors attending the round of 22 special rating district meetings across the 650km long region could be claiming time.

However provision by the authority for a motor vehicle for the chair should be bypassed.

"I don't think that's applicable for my term here," he said.

Cr Dooley said it was "not a good look" and also recommended it be deleted from council's own policy.

It was carried.

For the travel claim, Ms Morrison said council could elect to pay it or not, but it had to remain in the policy.

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