1 Sep 2015

Earthquake Commission has spent $68m on travel

12:41 pm on 1 September 2015

The Earthquake Commission has spent more than $68 million on travel expenses for staff since the September 2010 earthquake.

The figures provided under the Official Information Act show the commission spent more than $38 million on accommodation and food for staff travelling from offices in Wellington and Hamilton to Christchurch.

Earthquake Commission staff gather outside the Civil Defence headquarters on Thursday.

Members of Earthquake Commission staff outside the Civil Defence headquarters in 2011. (File photograph.) Photo: RNZ

Almost $20 million has been spent on cars, over $9 million on airfares and nearly $900,000 on taxis and parking costs.

Commission chief executive Ian Simpson said the figures reflected the necessity of bringing in international expertise so that EQC could respond immediately and effectively to the earthquakes.

"The scale of work in Canterbury meant we had to look elsewhere for expertise, which involved moving staff around the country."

Mr Simpson said the travel costs covered the cost of all staff between EQC's three offices associated with its Canterbury response work.

"While the costs in the 2010/2011 and 2011/12 financial years were high, they have significantly decreased in subsequent years and continue to drop."

"EQC has in place a travel and expenditure policy to ensure that it works aligned with recommended government parameters." Mr Simpson said.

Almost half of the money was spent in 2010 and 2011 when the commission increased staff numbers from 22 before the September 2010 earthquake to more than 1,800 at its peak.

In December 2012, EQC had a total of 1,135 staff but only 596 were based in Christchurch.

134 staff were in Hamilton, 391 in Wellington and 14 in other locations.

"EQC's work in Canterbury is carried out in other centres to ensure business continuity in case any one site has to shut down because of another event or some other disruption." Mr Simpson said.