Cameron Slater has the inside word on Murray McCully’s $75,000 trip to Vanuatu on a New Zealand Air Force plane that involved flying the 126-seater there and back to drop him and seven staff off, then there and back again the next day to pick them up. This story gets worse the more details come out:
On February 13 the same day that McCully left I recieved an email that told me that at approximately 1pm Murray McCully, boarded Royal New Zealand Airforce Boeing 757, bound for an overnight stop over in Vanuatu to attend a Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group on Fiji. The aircraft was at short notice, late in the week specially refitted in full VIP trim with $80,000 leather lie flat recliners and mahogany tables, a service normally reserved for heads of state and royalty, far beyond the luxury of standard airline first class travel, however onboard the 126 seater airliners, there was only Murray McCully and 7 close colleagues. Out-numbered by the airforce personnel on the aircraft required to run it.
I wonder if Murray had time to make use of the $80,000 VIP lie-flat seats. Commercial Auckland to Port Vila flights take 3-3.5 hours. Slater describes the use of the air force as:
a way of circumventing the strict criticism that is currently placed on ministerial travel, being a defense asset the costs of running this frankly unneccessary [sic] and frighteningly expensive jaunt are not born by the travel allowances but by the countries meager, to say the least, defence budget. This arguement [sic] had further weight added to it when Murray McCully turned up over two hours late for departure, apparently due to a heated argument between himself and the defense minister on the need to take the airliner.
I think the public of New Zealand deserves to know more about Wayne Mapp’s opinion of McCully using the Air Force as a luxury limo service. Slater continues
This ended up resulting in a waste of crew duty which will postpone Mt Erebus commemorations in Antartica [sic] for the families of those lost to the tragidy [sic].
Wow. The government really abused those poor people, eh? Remember that Key had planned to take 24 seats on the flight to Erebus for himself, his entourage, and the
photo-op monkeys journos.
as well as around 300kg of Jet-A1 gas that the APU burnt whilst waiting for ‘doors closed’.
Nick Smith will be loving seeing those carbon credits go up in smoke.
When the aircraft returned, the VIP config (which requires a change in not only false floor, but the rollers and assorted anchor points underneath, the carpet, curtains, class divider screens, suit hobs, passenger entertainment wiring and overhead passenger support units), would need to be removed, taking a team of around 8 skilled technical staff around 12 hours continuous.
Is this what the Nats used to call low-value government spending? But now, Slater goes into defence mode:
The timing of the meeting meant that international flights didn’t provide useful connections. I think from memory that if they had used commercial flights then all the Pacific diplomats in attendence [sic] would ahve [sic] had to have stayed over 3 more days before the next commercial flight out from Vanuatu.
Slater seems to think that this is an adequate defence that excuses all the rest.
Hmm. Let me think. Perhaps, if the commercial flights from Vanuatu didn’t work well with that date, they should have arranged the meeting to work better with the international flight schedule.
Was it really so critical that it took place on that day in that place? Was it worth an extra $75,000 (the average family income for a year) to have it in Vanuatu on that particular day?
Perhaps McCully could give us a detailed account of the outcomes that were only made possible by having the meeting on that day in Vanuatu. Just so that we can see that he has been putting our money to good use and not employing our air force as his personal airborne luxury limo service.
In other words, is spending a family’s yearly income to fly Murray McCully to a one-day meeting and back good value for money, or is it a ‘nice to have’?