Christopher Luxon defends MP Tim Costley claiming allowance to live in own flat

1:30 pm on 11 June 2024
National leader Christopher Luxon with Ōtaki candidate Tim Costley at Coastlands Mall.

National leader Christopher Luxon with Ōtaki candidate Tim Costley. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has defended his MP's use of housing allowances.

Ōtaki MP Tim Costley has made headlines for claiming more than $36,000 to live in a Wellington apartment he owns.

MPs often left Parliament late at night and Costley's 58km commute to Waikanae was impractical, Luxon told Morning Report.

"MP's when they're in Wellington, [they] don't finish Parliament till 10[pm]," he said.

"We have some meetings out of there until midnight and then expect to be back at work in order to get going into select committees and other work that they have to do, between 7am and 8am."

Costley lived outside the Wellington commuter area, he said.

"That's not inappropriate actually, given he's got a young family, he needs to get back to his family but he needs to be able to get on with his work."

Luxon said when he returned his own allowance, it was because the situation was "becoming a distraction".

"We've got a guy with a young family who is expected to work when he's in Parliament in that week, up to 10pm," Luxon said.

"He's actually then got to do meetings and debriefing afterwards, that often means he's not out of there until midnight. He's got to be back at work at 7am and there are times when that that can be a bit brutal going one way or another way.

"He's juggling quite a lot."

Labour MP claiming allowance to live in wife's apartment

Labour local government spokesperson Kieran McAnulty speaking to reporters in Wellington on 2 October, 2023.

Kieran McAnulty. Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Labour MP Kieran McAnulty is another MP who has been claiming the housing allowance, to live in a flat owned by his wife.

His Masterton home is an hour and 40 minutes from Parliament, so when it is in session, he lives in the Lower Hutt apartment.

McAnulty has claimed $12,067 since October, The Post reported.

He said his wife bought the flat before they married in January and that he did not own it in any part, nor was he on the mortgage.

'A state-run hotel'

The taxpayer should fund a parliamentarian's accommodation if they normally resided outside of Wellington, political commentator Bryce Edwards told Midday Report.

"The problem is when they use those allowances to pay for the properties that they own in Wellington themselves.

"There's about 20 or so parliamentarians that do get that allowance, which helps pay their mortgage. I guess this has happened for decades. The critics point out that that enables MPs to get richer, to get the capital gains from their houses and that they become more wealthy."

He said at a time when the economy was in recession, the public sector is seeing mass redundancies there were "heightened concerns about MPs being paid too much when everyone else is going backwards".

Edwards said an option would be the state providing accommodation for MPs.

"A state-run hotel," he said.