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Anne Tolley's Chopper Flight Faces Flak

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Anne Tolley
Anne Tolley

Wellington, April 7 NZPA - The Opposition got into a spin today over Tertiary Education Minister Anne Tolley's helicopter "joy ride" around Auckland.

Labour leader Phil Goff took verbal flight questioning whether it was "prudent use of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money ... to take a helicopter joy ride over Auckland on the basis she said that she wanted an overview of the Auckland University of Technology?"

Finance Minister Bill English said Mrs Tolley was careful with public funds and it was the last government that had been reckless making commitments without properly funding them.

Mr Goff continued to air his doubts about the value of the "jaunt" given the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) was shaving off 70 jobs, but Mr English said it was "quite normal practice for ministers to take rides in helicopters".

And if the trip was paid by someone else and was worth more than $500 it would be declared.

He said the TEC "was one of the most wasteful and useless expenditures of public money Labour ever invented".

Labour senior whip Darren Hughes asked if Maryan Street's question to Mrs Tolley could be put off until tomorrow, given the minister was in Queenstown -- "presumably in a helicopter".

Speaker Lockwood Smith told Mr Hughes off for making a derogatory comment which Labour MP Trevor Mallard said was strange as Mr English said it was so normal to fly about.

Ms Street asked her question about whether Mrs Tolley had a "good overview" of tertiary education after her flight.

She suggested Mrs Tolley was avoiding student leaders who had dubbed their efforts to speak to the minister "the great Tolley hunt".

Associate Tertiary Education Minister Wayne Mapp said the minister was focused on ensuring universities and students got resources, "and not the bloated Tertiary Education Commission as apparently was the plan of the previous government".

He said Mrs Tolley did have a good overview of tertiary education and had made an effort to visit many campuses in Auckland and it was the Auckland University of Technology's idea that she take the flight.

" she could gain a greater understanding of the population growth in Auckland, distances between the tertiary sector and how the AUT intends to serve different communities within the Auckland region."

Dr Mapp pointed out that Auckland was a very spread out city.

An attempt by Labour's Clayton Cosgrove to table a map of Auckland to help Mrs Tolley was grounded.

NZPA PAR mt nb

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