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NZ On Air under fire after 50k party

Wednesday 17 Nov 2010 5:32 p.m.

By Rebecca Wright

A Government department has been issued with a ‘please explain’ after it was found to have spent over $50,000 on a night out for 235 friends - including a live performance by a rock group.

The department in question is New Zealand On Air.

Auckland's The Powerstation was the site of a private performance by Shihad put on by NZ On Air and paid for by you - the taxpayer.

“We had a 21st music function in Auckland to host, I think about 220-odd people from the music and broadcasting sector, in essence to say thank you for 21 great years of Kiwi music,” says NZ On Air chief executive Jane Wrightson.

That thank you cost $50,800, about $212 a head.

[It seems like a lot of money for a government department to spend on a function?] “Well it would have been if that was all food and booze it would be but it wasn't,” says Ms Wrightson.

The booze was sponsored by a liquor company. But food related costs were $12,213 and the venue was $7439.

Shihad was brought over from Australia especially to play the private party - the band and its equipment cost over $20,000.

Another $10,800 was spent on paying someone to organise the knees up - an MC and some sundries.

“I'm satisfied that we did an appropriate function for the music industry,” she says.

But with hindsight, the Minister who attended isn't so sure.

“We have just been through a recession and New Zealanders would be expecting all public money to be accounted for and to be spent prudently so I think that there are some questions that New Zealand On Air has to answer there,” says Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman.

Those questions were answered late today with NZ On Air saying it would think twice before putting on an event like this again.

The Government has been preaching restraint in the public sector - as one MP said today the 3000 bureaucrats who have lost their jobs may not share NZ On Air's reason to celebrate.

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