13 Aug 2018

Simon Bridges defends $113k expenses bill

10:34 pm on 13 August 2018

National leader Simon Bridges is defending the large bill he's racked up travelling the country, saying it was a good use of taxpayers' money.

Simon Bridges will stand for National Party leader.

Simon Bridges will stand for National Party leader. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The latest update on MPs' expenses, leaked to Newshub, show Mr Bridges has spent more than $100,000 on travel and accommodation between April and June.

The total bill came to $113,973. Most of that - $83,693 - was spent travelling in the crown limousine.

Former Labour leader Andrew Little spent roughly $35,000 less on travel during the same period last year.

Asked whether it was a good use of money, Mr Bridges told RNZ that it was.

"I've been working incredibly hard to get out and around New Zealand regionally, to understand what's happening, to get a real sense of what's going on with businesses," he said.

"It's really important for National - given that we represent... nearly half of New Zealanders all around the country - that I get out and do this hard mahi [work]."

Mr Bridges concluded a 12-week national town hall roadshow last month, holding almost 70 meetings around the country.

Getting out and about New Zealand was a crucial part of the job and the government would be wise to do more of it, Mr Bridges said.

"If the government got out of the Beehive bubble and did a bit more of this, they would have a better sense of what's driving the plummeting business confidence and also the economic downturn."

Mr Bridges lives in Tauranga, whereas previous Opposition leaders have lived in Wellington or Auckland, meaning their costs have been lower.